Second album time for Matt Hales, and it's time for him to prove he's not just a one trick horse. "Strange and Beautiful" was both strange and beautiful, but the rest of his self-titled debut was ok at best; although on occasion it reached the brilliant intimacy of the single, most of it felt distinctly half-baked.
So, has he managed it? Brighter Than Sunshine kicks things off nicely, and the lingering doubt that this will just be another Volkswagon Advert will dissipate as soon as "Left Behind", easily a match for anything Coldplay have done, kicks in. It seems Hales has discovered the wonders of the recording studio; as well as a lusher accompaniment of strings to his piano, strange and often compelling sounds litter the album. But it is far from overproduced- the man knows where to draw the line, and everything melts together perfectly. "Another Little Hole" and "Take Me Home" are brilliantly numb break-up pieces; Hales shatters his voice at the beginning of "Breaking My Heart Again" for almost uncomfortably intimate effect. And what is that sound at the beginning of "7 Keys"? It sounds like a wave breaking gently against an electronic beach, or the world's friendliest TV snow. Either way, it's a fitting opening for a defiantly cheery song.
Matt Hales is both a musical talent and a master at break up albums. It's time he's recognised as such.