Head here to submit your own review of this album. It's probably been a while since anyone heard the name Aqualung, aka English singer-songwriter Matt Hales. The 43-year-old first emerged on the scene back in 2002 when Volkswagen used his single 'Strange and Beautiful (I'll Put A Spell On You)' for an artsy Beetle commercial, solidifying him as a UK charts success.
It must be busy in the head of Matt Hales. Whether it’s correct to call Aqualung’s head honcho a veteran by now is probably a moot point, but he’s certainly been around the block a few times. From the quirky, muscular indie of underrated Nineties band Ruth, via the Sixties-infused riff rock of the perhaps even more underrated The 45s, all the way through to the surprise, almost accidental success of the spell he put us all under via Aqualung’s debut album all those years ago, one element has remained: Matt Hales is an astonishingly good songwriter.
It’s been a rocky road for Aqualung’s Matt Hales, with a welcome start to his career with a Top Ten single in ‘Strange and Beautiful’, a location move from South London to the sunny hills of California five years ago and then an announcement that he’d no longer be releasing music after 2010’s ‘Magnetic North’. Well, until now. ‘10 Futures’ is a perfectly crafted enigmatic soundscape, a collaborative effort with the likes of Joel Compass, Lianne La Havas, Luke Sital-Singh and Prides.
Songwriter, musician and producer Matt Hales never quite managed to replicate the success he achieved with his debut album under the Aqualung name. Aqualung’s eponymous album, which was released in 2002, reached the top 20 in the UK albums chart, propelled by the success of singles Strange & Beautiful (I’ll Put A Spell On You) and Good Times Gonna Come. Those two tracks, along with Brighter Than Sunshine from second Aqualung album Still Life, have been used in so many TV shows ever since – including Skins, The O.C., Gossip Girl, Scrubs and One Tree Hill to name just a few – that there is very little chance of anyone not recognising them.
The seventh studio album from the British singer/songwriter, released after five years of retirement, during which Matt Hales (aka Aqualung) focused solely on his career as a producer, 10 Futures looks to the past on its opening salvo, the evocative, loop-driven "Tape to Tape. " Built around the clicks and spins of a rewinding cassette tape -- analog sounds play a large role in 10 Futures, and the ambient city soundscapes and chirping birds feel as much a part of the songs as the melodies do -- and featuring the soulful falsetto of guest vocalist Joel Compass, it's a fitting re-introduction for an artist who spent time away from the front of the house behind the mixing board, and it's also the most playful song on the album. The slow-burn follow-up, "Eggshells," is more indicative of the LP as a whole, pairing deep, trip-hop-kissed beats with emotionally charged vocals; in this case it's a deeply Auto-Tuned Hales locking horns with English soul singer Lianne La Havas.
In the early noughties, “Strange and Beautiful” by Aqualung – aka Matt Hales - was featured in a Volkswagen advert. At the time it was generally recognised as being quite nice, and quickly propelled the singer-songwriter into the spotlight of the UK’s charts and beyond. A fairly successful career as a recording artist followed, until Hales announced his retirement in 2010, deciding to focus instead on his work as a producer.