Album Review

Megan Eidelbach
Although I prefer to be optimistic about music and extremely open-minded, I must say that Aqualung, (the pseudonym of English singer/songwriter Matt Hales) and his music did not cater to my tastes at first. It seemed too contrived, too commercial, too copied from the likes of other English bands such as Oasis or Radiohead (especially the song “Reel Me In”, which if I had heard it on the radio and not known, would have thought it was definitely the latter. ) Now whether that is a compliment or not is up to the artist, but I would think that in music the main focus would be to be as original as possible. Not only that, but most of the songs drag out and sound the same. Not that it’s bad music. Hales has lots of talent, as does the guest artists he includes on the album- including Alison Sudol of A Fine Frenzy and Sara Bareilles, as well as his regular musicians.

The 12 tracks on Magnetic North were recorded in Los Angeles, where he and wife Kim Oliver moved last fall. The album was released on April 10th under Verve Music, the second under this label. Co-writers include Ben Hales (his brother), his wife, and Paul Buchanan of the Blue Nile.

There is one song that does delight me that strikes me different from all of the rest on this album and that is “Fingertip”. I love the way it speeds up and slows down, I love the rhythm, his voice, the lyrics, and well, pretty much everything about this song. It is a welcome break from the wailing echoes of English sound that make up so much of the Euro pop music of today. Other jewels on this album is “Time Moves Slow” and “California”. The piano in them seems magical and enrapturing.

As a teen, Hales formed several bands and released an album called Mecano Pig in 1990. Later he formed Gravel Monsters/RUTH/The 45's and released Harrison. Unfortunately he seemed to find no success until he formed a solo career, and his first single, “Strange and Beautiful” came out and was chosen by VW for use in their ads. It also reached Number Seven in the UK Top 40. He then came out with his debut album, Aqualung in 2002 and then Still Life in 2003. His music has been featured on many ads, films, TV shows, etc, but there hasn't been much success commercially for his music.

Let's cross our fingers for him that Magnetic North gives him the attention he deserves. If not, maybe I'll send a bird to whisper in his ear to drop the EuroPop sound and stay with the sound he has in the rest of his album, because the rest is excellent with the exception of a flop or two like “New Friend” which just grates on the nerves and is just annoying at times.

Aqualung, aka Matt Hales, good luck.... like you said, time moves slow.