Neil Halstead

Neil Halstead

Sleeping On Roads

Beggars Banquet / 4AD

This is the gentlest-sounding album I will ever call brilliant. Neil Halstead (main man in perpetual Brit-surf-folk combo Mojave 3) has made an album that matches its cover’s orange/brown/blue color scheme: autumnal, sad as hell, intriguingly pretty.

This project leans heavily on the kind of folk-rock that isn’t afraid to be what it is. And what it is is gorgeous; the songs are like lullabies for depressed kids, and their instrumentation is full of acoustic guitars and glockenspiels and cellos. And when he can’t think of a beautiful melody himself, he borrows one from his friend Damien Jurado (“Dreamed I Saw Soldiers”). This is so mellow and perfect-sounding that it’s actually scary.

In fact, this would be the perfect driving album, if it wasn’t so emotionally charged — I actually had to pull over on the highway after hearing the following lines from “Martha’s Mantra (For The Pain)”: “Now she says she won’t do drugs/Because she found something to love/She cured herself of everything/Now all that’s left is hair and skin.” I don’t know what it means, but my eyes were swimming in tears. Hell, that song’s even sad when Martha ties the narrator up and pulls out the whip. (Seriously.) Halstead’s lyrical aim is (mostly) true, whether he’s being depressing or not — I guess his overall vibe is one of curious melancholy, like all those Rod McKuen albums in my collection, only better, because Halstead can actually write a song.

So I fell in love with a record — so what? It isn’t the first time, and it isn’t the last. I couldn’t help myself… it was so beautiful and sad…

4AD: http://www.4ad.com

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