I bought Aqualung's follow up LP expecting it to be merely an extension or olive branch from what the debut gave us - melancholic, reflective and beautiful piano melodies. Of course, it delivers perfectly once again in this area of the album structure but there's certainly a difference in the sound of the two albums. 'Still Life' sounds like Aqualung from the core elements of the music, but its clear Matt Hales has decided to tinker with his winning formula by adding a bigger sound scope. More guitar elements, drums and other instrumentation help make this a much more diverse record than the first. I never thought they'd better the self titled debut, but they've quite possibly exceeded all expectations by delivering something fans of the old material will love whilst attracting a new legion with the progression they've made.
'Brighter Than Sunshine' is the perfect opener, a great pop song which has a great chorus and extemely uplifting. 'Left Behind' is perhaps the loudest part of the album and its here where you begin to see the diversity on offer. Matt sings the chorus here very passionately and its a song which develops to a mid-pace rock out. 'You Turn Me Around' and 'Easier To Lie' are next up, and in my view the best two tracks on the album. You Turn Me Around brings the sound back to a softer tone and features quite possibly the best lyrics on the enitre record. It's a beautiful, powerful piano led song and needs to be heard to be beleived. Easier To Lie however will lift you back up, it has a wonderful sweeping chorus and melody that just has the ability to make you feel good. '7 Keys' and 'Breaking My Heart Again' are the other stand out tracks and see the tone return once more to where Aqualung feel most at home. The rest of the songs are by no means average, but perhaps slightly lacking in quality to grab you like the others mentioned above.
I gave this 5 stars because its an album which will certainly have you coming back time and again. Also, in my opinion, it's a record in which Matt Hales has successfully moved Aqualung forward in their search for new ideas. It's their creativity and ability to use a range of different sounds successfully which makes this essential listening for music fans who like blissful, easy listening piano led melodies. It still sounds like much of their earlier stuff, but its much glossier, and full marks to them for not resting on their laurels and honing their sound. This ain't far off perfection.