Neil Halstead’s first band, Slowdive, generated a dense wall of sound that marked them as a second-generation shoegazer band alongside kindred spirits like early Blur and Swervedriver. His second, Mojave 3, dropped the noise in favor of rustic, country-tinged singer-songwriter fare. But Sleeping on Roads (4AD), Halstead’s solo debut, is more compelling than anything either band did, because he’s found a way to reconcile folky lyricism with sound for sound’s sake. Gently fingerpicked guitar and breathy double-tracked vocals ride on loping back-roads beats, blanketed with keyboard textures as warm and nubbly as a well-worn wool sweater. Cannily deployed sonic details–ambling banjo here, some glockenspiel filigree there, and on two key tracks Mark Armstrong’s buoyant trumpet–highlight the insinuating melodies. Although most of Halstead’s songs deal with disintegrating relationships and the crumbling people that inhabit them, he’s not a full-time sad sack; he also celebrates pleasures like surfing off England’s west coast and listening to British folk icon Bert Jansch. Given the key role arrangements play in Sleeping on Roads’ success, Halstead has given himself a tall order on tour; his only accompaniment will be his own guitar and harmonica. Monday, April 15, 7 PM, Reckless Records, 3157 N. Broadway; 773-404-5080. Tuesday, April 16, 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace; 773-478-4408.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jamie Beeden.