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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Magnetic North
Format: Audio CD|Change
Price:£14.97+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime

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.

Unequivocally Recommended!
0Comment| 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 1 December 2011
I've been a fan of Aqualung since the release of their single Brighter Than Sunshine. None of their albums are what you'd call ground-breaking or cutting edge. Their style is very much in the easy-listening category. That's not to say their music is dull or lacks emotional impact. Far from it. Aqualung know their way around a sweet melody and good lyrics. For me, they are one of the best bands going around and they are absolutely brilliant at what they do, i.e. writing catchy, hook-laden and melodic music.

As for this album, it is sheer quality from beginning to end. There is not a weak song to be found, and there is a consistent theme that ties the entire album together, thus making it a 'proper' album that you'll want to listen to in its entirety. I've loved all of Aqualung's albums, but for some reason it's this album that I keep wanting to play over and over.

It defies logic that Aqualung does not get played on commercial radio or sells loads of records as this album deserves to. But then again, maybe it's not surprising given what radio programmers deem to be good music. Aqualung's lack of commercial success is similar to that of The Blue Nile, another band I've long admired but also don't seem to get the sales their quality deserves. Interestingly, Paul Buchanan from The Blue Nile, makes a guest appearance on this album as well as Memory Man.
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on 7 September 2010
The detailed review by the Wolf, the seasoned reviewer of great eloquence, is more than good enough to understand the true value of "Magnetic North."

I just wish to add another five-star rating by saying that this is a sublimely haunting, supremely crafted piano-driven masterpiece.

Reminiscent of Ben Folds, yet only of more spared-down lyricism of incredible rawness.

Not a single track is a space-waster. My own favourites are "Reel Me In," "36 Hours" and "Thin Air."

Matt is a genius of tunes, whilst Ben of poetic prose.

What brothers.

They deserve far, far better recognition and appreciation.
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on 19 October 2011
I delayed buying this on the fairly lukewarm reviews, but was pleasantly surprised. It holds its own with Matt's best work and as the album progresses, the songs take on a bit more depth. The first few tracks initially set alarm bells ringing as it really does sound as if he's hit the college MOR brick wall. But, after a few listens, there is some depth to his work and it's an album that bears heavy rotation. If you're a fan of his early work, then give this a go. You'll like it.
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on 22 September 2010
Would like to add that although I have all other works by the artist
this is the most accessable
it is music of the very highest class that deserves to be heard by the masses
perfect radio 2 pop fare
if you like Matthew Jay (sadly missed) or Clarkesville (whatever happened to him?)
or even Josh Rouse then give this a listen or even better buy it.

I have all of Ben Folds albums as well but I cannot compare this with him or Coldplay for that matter.
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on 26 April 2010
Well.... Matty,....... what have you done? This is an absolute box of gems, the wait was well worth it.
Clearly the most rounded piece of work yet. Love every track, they all sit perfectly.
My personal favourites.... the beautiful Remember Us; Hummingbird; New Friend; Sundowning; and the familiar styles od Lost and Magnetic North.
I can't really express how much I love this.
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on 26 February 2015
Best album for ages. Love every single tiny moment of this joyous sound. I give it hearts rather than stars.
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on 14 March 2015
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