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Aqualung – Magnetic North
April 20, 2010

Matt Hales, better known as Aqualung, releases his sixth album. Surprisingly he’s not really a big name as his music could be seen as a crossover between the gleamy Britpop of Coldplay, Keane & Athlete on the one side and the alternative singer/songwriter indie-pop of Ben Folds, Cary Brothers, Pete Yorn and the likes. Mix this with a bit of Elton John-like alternative piano pop and you sort of get the idea of what Hales does with his music.

It’s quite eclectic in that sense and in this fashion he creates albums that have a lot of variety, hold exciting songs and sometimes small, intimate songs while never really losing the pop appeal. On “Magnetic North” he does this yet again, and probably better than ever. The trippy New Friend reminds me of the late 60s/early 70s and it’s remarkably catchy, as is the bouncy Reel Me In, which would make an excellent radio single.

On other songs, Hales shows a softer, more soulful side (Sundowning, Lost, Thin Air) and then he shows more of a rock & roll approach on songs like Fingertip and Hummingbird. But the songs that stick with me most are Time Moves Slow which is performed with a lot of feeling and has a great build up, the melody slowly draws you in more and more, and the classy Ben Folds-ish Hummingbird.

There is diversity on “Magnetic North” but while the songs have different sounds and influences, they all do fit together. At first listen there isn’t really a theme to be found on this album, but as you listen to it more often, you’ll find that the songs follow one another very naturally and one could say that the theme is the ‘perception of the world around you’. Aqualung might not be a very well-known artist at the moment, but with a shred of luck, “Magnetic North” could very well provide a serious breakthrough for this fine musician.

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