Album Review: Aqualung – Magnetic North

By on Monday, 24th May 2010 at 12:00 pm

If there’s one glaring, standout feature of Matt Hales (aka Aqualung), it’s his consistency to turn out solid albums. Indeed, “Magnetic North” sounds like a Part II of the relatively ignored “Words and Music.” Some may see sameness as a weak point, but listen to this latest album, and you’ll see that occasionally it’s okay not to change. That said, this one is perhaps more suitable for the veteran fans rather than those poking around for something new.

At any rate, Hales shows that he’s back indeed with the rather quirky, upbeat “New Friend” intro track. If it weren’t for the waling background singers that start to warble in the middle of the song, I would have guessed it to a song by done a slightly lethargic Beck. Meanwhile, “Reel Me In” sees Hales pounding away on those ivories while delivering words that veteran fans are no doubt familiar with, “Washed over to the waterfall, I got swallowed by the undertow”, as well as creating a very accessible sound to new listeners.

Aqualung slowly begins to creep back into his vintage signature, with “Sundowning” and “Lost” which are the kind of mediocre songs that really do nothing to pull at the emotional heartstrings of listeners, but is calm and placid enough to play for the sake of background music.

Still, no need to fix what’s not broken, and “36 Hours” and “Lost” proves to be standout numbers off the album. On one hand, in the former mentioned song, we hear a highly likeable piano driven track complete with infectious loops, and hey check this, even the use of an underutilized samba. Hooray. “Lost” on the other hand, is a stripped back song that bares the soul of Hales as he delivers melancholic vocals of a trembling relationship. Again, both tracks are the traditional types of songs that garnered Hales a fan base in the first place, though casual listeners may see such tracks as run-of-the mill, angst-driven tunes from yet another Coldplay wannabe.

It was once rumored that Hales was fed up with music and wanted to altogether retire from the fickle industry. Thankfully, he didn’t throw the towel in to become some rambling school teacher, because there’s a calming strength is his songs that prove to be too pleasant to contain. While his music and sound isn’t exactly revolutionary, the reliability of creating something unswerving but also fresh is found herein his “Magnetic North.”

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