Cover Story [Issue
Strange & Beautiful: A New Cover For A Familiar Sound
Strange And Beautiful
CD Columbia/Red Ink )
to Aqualung on the ONE WAY CD 14
Strange and Beautiful is supposed to retell the story of Aqualung (aka Matt Hales), who had already become a familiar voice in the UK by a popular VW Beetle commercial featuring his song, “Strange and Beautiful,” in 2002.
Carefully hand picking the songs from the first two albums, Hales
chose to portray a more atmospheric sound for the American listeners.
You can give lots of different impressions of Aqualung depending
on which 12 songs you chose, so I was definitely conscious and careful
in selecting these songs, he says. Strange and Beautiful ended
up being a compilation of Aqualungs previous two albums and,
as Hales himself puts it, quite telling and further
away from the classic singer-songwriter-y stuff. He is also
one of the very few musicians that Ive met who actually listens
to his own records! Last year, I found myself listening to
the first album a lot more than I had for a while. I find it to
be a very useful thing to do. It gives me the chance to relisten
and think about what I want to do next, says Hales, who is
also producing a solo album for Melanie Blatt.
Born above his parents Southampton independent record store,
Hales started getting involved in music at a young age. Whether
it was listening to the non-stop sound of music being played at
his parents record store or playing the piano that dominated
the front room of their house, Hales acquired an extraordinary talent
for songwriting as a teenager. At 11, he was commissioned to compose
his school song and by 17, he had written his first symphony, Life
Cycle, performed by a 60-piece orchestra, with Hales himself
conducting. He embarked on a musical journey that included a cover
band of The Police (with his brother Ben), a Britpop band in the
early 90s named Ruth, and another band named The 45s
(not the Atlanta-based garage rock group) while taking composition
classes and attending Londons City University.
Strange and Beautiful has merged, not necessarily the best
of Aqualung but the best of what Hales believes to be a step away
from the typical singer/songwriter material. The title track is
what could be called an experimental piano ballad. It
has a subtle melody, but with enough spunk and ups and downs to
take it away from the typical piano ballads. Falling Out of
Love is a kind of song that could exude a million different
moods depending on the lyrics. Its so versatile and atmospheric
that it could make you cry or laugh depending on the words. And
as you can imagine from the title, the lyrics are complete emotional
devastation with a heartfelt delivery.
Good Times Gonna Come is a beautiful song reflecting
that little ray of hope in the loneliest and darkest moments in
life. The piano strokes take the lyrics to the pinnacle of emotions
and Hales sincere vocals paint a bittersweet feeling all over
this track. While the rhythmic piano solo on Tounge-tied
is more on the classical spectrum, Left Behind is definitely
a contemporary sound. And Brighter Than Sunshine, the
first single released from Strange and Beautiful, is featured in
A Lot Like Love, starring Ashton Kutcher and Amanda Peet (the movie
is scheduled for release on 4/22/05).
While Aqualung continues their North American tour while also supporting
Jason Mraz and David Ryan on some of their dates in 2005, Matt Hales
is less surprised by their audience differences and more by their
similarities. Whats amazing to me is not so much the
mood difference at our shows in different cities and different continents,
but how little the mood changes from Tokyo to Vienna, he says.
Our pop-culture is such a massive global thing now that its
difficult to really see the variety of taste from one place to another.
With all the great things going for Aqualung these days and with
all the expectations and possibilities that lie within the release
of this compilation and even their next album, Matt Hales is far
from holding the status quo. For one thing, he is experimenting
with not using the piano and seeing where that takes the sound of
Aqualung. I want to make the Aqualung music more expansive
and maybe more dramatic, he says. I dont want
to limit myself to a certain territory. I want to find an area where
I could grow musically. I just want to carry on always full of potential.
Strange And Beautiful
to (Aqualung) on the ONE WAY CD