- Released: January 17, 2006
- Label: Sbme Special Mkts.
Rolling Stone - No. 969, p.1104 stars out of 5
- "[U]niting Radiohead-ish British rock and symphonic pop...tenor Hales delivers keenly focused keyboard-based drama that blows away all pretenders trailing in Coldplay's wake..."
With a sweet, plaintive voice that slides easily into a soft falsetto, and a laconic way with the piano, young Matt Hales (AKA Aqualung) makes moping sound sexy. STRANGE & BEAUTIFUL--a compilation of tracks from Aqualung's first two UK albums--evokes a somber, rain-swept world where people drift prettily away from each other, bruise each other with indifference, and quietly break each other's hearts, all to a lazy back-beat and deep, programmed bass.
There is a consistency of mood here--literally every song is a ballad--but Hales is an able enough craftsman both as a producer and a writer to create intriguing variations in sound. "Left Behind" has an insistent, hook-laden melody and a slow, steady rock feel. On "If I Fall," Hales's poignant, Thom Yorke-ish vocal shadow-boxes with a great bass line, while slightly dissonant guitar arpeggios (rare on this keyboard-heavy album) tug at the heartstrings. The title track, a sweeping paean to an unrequited love, possesses the most enchanting and dour chorus since Rufus Wainwright's debut.