Review: Jack Foley
AFTER the subtle fragility of Matt Hales' debut album, Strange
and Beautiful, the singer himself describes Still Life,
his follow-up, as 'a fruitier cake'. That is to say, songs with
a little more... 'oomph!'
Kicking off with the current single, Brighter Than Sunshine,
a former IndieLondon record of the week, which was described by
Heather Metherell as a 'simple, joyful love song', which boasts
'sliding strings, that are reminiscent of George Martins
Beatles arrangements', the album then proceeds to do exactly what
its writer suggests.
It is an altogether bolder, more concert-friendly long-player,
which boasts some really terrific tracks, as well as some quietly
affecting ones, which serve to underline Hales' talents as a songwriter
of genuine worth.
Second track, Left Behind, is perhaps the brightest example
of Aqualung's progression, evoking comparisons with the likes
of Coldplay in both composition and style. Its sweeping melodies,
grander drums and feelgood direction possess an altogether friendlier
vibe than anything on the debut album, and should make an excellent
The piano returns to the fore with You Turn Me Around,
which finds Hales in a more reflective mood, talking about cold
hearts and confusing daydreams, while the beautifully-composed
Easier To Lie is a quietly heartbreaking affair, which
find Hales' vocals at their most affecting.
Hales, in an interview with IndieLondon, reckons the new material
is a little more rockier, but while this may be a slight exaggeration,
you can easily believe that this current collection of songs will
go down a storm live, particularly in support of a band like Feeder.
Of the other standout tracks, Another Little Hole is a
terrific mix of piano and acoustic guitar, with a hint of bass,
which brings out the best in the singer's lamentful vocal style;
while Breaking My Heart Again, with its simple beat and
gentle electronic influence, is a darker, harder and completely
beguiling affair, which really stretches Hales' vocal range.
My only minor criticism of the album is that there are times
when it becomes difficult to distinguish between certain songs,
such is their similarity in style, but this, fortunately, doesn't
occur too often.
In fact, it is easy to understand why Hales is being hailed,
by many, as one of Britain's strongest songwriters. Still Life
is packed full of examples of this.
1. Brighter Than Sunshine
2. Left Behind
3. You Turn Me Around
4. Easier To life
5. Another Little Hole
6. 7 Keys
7. Extraordinary Thing
8. Breaking My Heart Again
9. Take Me Home
10. Good Goodnight