Monday, April 14, 2008

Memory Man - Aqualung (SCQ Spring 2008)

Memory Man

BMG Records.

SCQ Rating: 82%

A year ago, Matt Hales (AKA Aqualung) meant nothing to me. He was like a Jack Johnson without the schtick, Justin Timberlake without the sex; another starry-eyed, effeminate songwriter who couldn’t earn a male fanbase. I saw him on televisions in Target, squinting his sensitivity through the camera, oozing ‘tortured artist’. His first album had sold platinum; my girlfriend loved him. I didn’t.

And that’s why I bought the album – for her. It sat in my luggage for a week before I returned from Halifax and nearly forgot to give it to her. And as if his second record re-wrote itself inside my suitcase, I found myself pausing mid-sentence while we were catching up from my two weeks out East to say “Wow, did you hear that?” Suddenly Matt Hales is a one-man rock band, measuring his sincerity with melody and a pulse you can believe in. His newly-acquired alt-rock skills are glossed appropriately by his electronic production, giving a modern sheen to the crunch of ‘Cinderella’ and ‘Outside’. Its accessibility is comparable to Coldplay’s by way of melody and lyrical content, but Memory Man keeps things original enough to remain free of adult contemporary radio. In fact, when Matt Hales rings off a chorus that would normally be too poppy for your liking, it’s a brief reminder that you’re listening to an artist who, two years ago, had nothing more than poppy choruses to offer.

Lush and darkly seductive, Memory Man is a beautiful, fully realized journey… and ready for this? Nobody gave it the time of day.

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