Aqualung - Magnetic North
Review by Jack Foley
MATT Hales – aka Aqualung – almost quit in 2007, having had enough of the music industry. Thank goodness, then, he didn’t… as new album Magnetic North proves.
Having dazzled us with albums such as Memory Man and Still Life, the singer has already served notice of his immense talents as a songwriter, singer and musician. Magnetic North serves as a beautiful reminder.
Packed with songs of thoughtful lyrics and layering, subtle nuances, and shimmering melodic structure, the album is a return to form that’s utterly enchanting.
Notice was served with the giddily infectious first single, Fingertip, which unfolded amid a flurry of “do do di di” harmonies and some sparkling pianos, before dropping one of the feel-good tracks of the summer.
But if that is the sound of Aqualung at their most commercial, there’s so much more to admire from spritely opening number New Friend, which sounds like Beck mixed with some Latino elements, to epic slow-burning finale Magnetic North.
Hales’ fondness for a delicious piano arrangement is once again underlined on another early highlight, Reel Me In, while his ability to get under your skin with a really telling slow-burning, layered ballad is best exemplified by 36 Hours.
Hales even opens up his repertoire to include several guest collaborators, the boy-girl fruition of which yields some similarly captivating results. The girls in question are Sara Bareilles, who enlivens the soul-pop stomper New Friend, A Fine Frenzy’s Alison Sudol on Time Moves Slow and Kelly Sweet on Sundowning.
His ear for a breezy sunshine melody is, meanwhile, evident on the alt-pop humdinger Hummingbird which, along with Time Moves Slow, are wrapped in warm, richly expressive piano arrangements.
All in all, then, Hales has created another gem of an LP that really does underline what a great talent he is. Welcome back Mr Hales… and please don’t threaten to quit again!
Download picks: New Friend, Reel Me In, Fingertip, Time Moves Slow, Hummingbird, 36 Hours