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A Magnetic Masterwork
on 1 May 2010
There is a moment at the heart of Aqualung's new album
'Magnetic North' which may well take your breath away.
'Remember Us' is a lovely song. No, hang on, it's much
more than that! It's one of the loveliest songs I think I've
ever heard. Matthew Hales and guest singer Sarah Bareilles
bring its sublime melody to life with an extraordinarily
understated light touch and not a little love.
Mr Hales knows his way round a good tune and there are
twelve very fine ones to consider in this collection.
These are beautifully crafted songs; complex and intelligent
yet somehow viscerally immediate in their ability to connect
with both mind and spirit.
The languorous arrangement of 'Sundown' mixes Mr Hales'
fragile but haunting falsetto with the additional charms
of Kelly Sweet's gently unobtrusive harmonic contribution.
It hangs sweetly in the air and in our memory like a dream.
The jazzy piano motif of the intro to 'New Friend' heralds
an addictively nuanced piece of uplifting soulful pop.
The gospel-like backing vocals add depth and just a little
warm humour to the album's cracking opening track.
'Lost', however, is a near-desolate cry of a song, stripped back
to nearly nothing. The sparse piano/percussion arrangement
amplifies the raw emotion of the keening central vocal performance.
It's so good it almost hurts in a bitter-sweet way!
Up tempo numbers 'Reel Me In', with its driving neo-classical chord
progressions and 'Hummingbird', sporting a raucous staccato
tub-thumping chorus both deliver some good energy to the mix.
'California' is a delightful miniature which drifts in and out of
consciousness like a butterfly alighting for a moment on the
petals of an open flower. Here and gone and on to the next one.
'Thin Air' find Mr Hales reaching deep into himself to expose some
deeply intimate reflections, articulated with enchanting emotional
authenticity. A small and perfectly-formed anthem to love.
Final track 'Magnetic North' is much more than the sum of its parts.
A touchstone. The personal made universal with truthful conviction,
it brings the project to a memorable and magnificent close.