Aqualung

Strange and Beautiful (Columbia)

ACL Music Festival Reviews

Aqualung

Strange and Beautiful (Columbia)

There are two kinds of Coldplay fans in the world: those who feel the band opened an important door for emotional rock and those who feel like they opened Pandora's box. How one interprets Coldplay's legacy will inform how one feels about Aqualung. The one-man band's major label debut, Strange and Beautiful, is diet Coldplay without much sweetener. While tunes such as "Falling Out of Love" are sweet Britpop ballads, there's a lack of breadth for an album full of heavy breathing. Once bandleader Matthew Hales unleashes some noteworthy compositions, it's all one Jamie Cullum or Rufus Wainwright outtake after another. And since when did "piano-based" automatically become Coldplay-based? Likely some time before Hales recorded such sing-alongs as the otherwise immaculate "Breaking My Heart." It's all made more stifling when the album's (relatively) few avant-garde moments, like "Good Times Gonna Come," feel shallow instead of dense. But Hales did craft one hell of a Britpop anthem with the string-laced "Brighter Than Sunshine," as good a single as any new act could hope for – even if it might sound better coming directly from Chris Martin. (Saturday, 1:30pm, AMD stage)

***

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