Neil Halstead, 'Oh! Mighty Engine' (Brushfire)

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Oh! Mighty Engine
Critical Mass
Label: Brushfire

by Jon Young

On Halstead's second solo outing, the Slowdive and Mojave 3 founder is content to spotlight his hushed singing and acoustic guitar, adding miniscule dashes of piano, steel guitar, etc., for color. But what could be monotonous is gripping: If Halstead lacks the tragic intensity of sonic role model Nick Drake, thoughtful tales like "Little Twig" skillfully capture troubled lives without undue fuss. While "Baby, I Grew You a Beard" radiates charm, "Sometimes the Wheels" -- which observes, "Sometimes you can't keep up" -- brilliantly evokes the scary sensation of feeling overwhelmed.

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