Aqualung – aka songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Matt Hales – will release ‘Dead Letters’, his first album in more than seven years. Best known for hits such as ‘Strange & Beautiful (I’ll Put A Spell On You)’ and ‘Brighter Than Sunshine’, Aqualung launch the album alongside the new single ‘Imperfect Cadence’.
In the intervening years, Hales’ reputation as a songwriter and producer flourished. Collaborating with all kinds of artists – including Lianne La Havas, Bat For Lashes, Mika, Tom Chaplin, Jason Mraz, For King & Country and countless others – his hectic yet immensely rewarding schedule resulted in huge acclaim, including both an Ivor Novello and a Grammy. No wonder, then, that aside from occasionally briefly resurfacing, Aqualung remained in hibernation.
Having spent much of the past decade living in Los Angeles, Hales and his family returned to England. They were soon joined by the wonky, upright piano that he has owned for more than thirty years. Disorientated by the odd feeling of being unmoored despite back home, Hales gravitated to channelling those emotions – and a whole lot more – into writing songs at his favourite old piano.
As those songs evolved into a catalogue of material, Hales reunited with some of the team behind the second Aqualung album, ‘Still Life’, for sessions at Real World near Bath, where that album was recorded. Those demos were finessed over the course of two years with some of his trusted collaborators: his brother Ben Hales, his wife Kim Oliver, and Matt Vincent-Brown, his bandmate in his pre-Aqualung projects The 45s and Ruth.
A dead letter is one that is undeliverable and unreturned by the post office. A message that sits in purgatory. A dead letter drop is a place where messages and other material can be left and collected in secret, without the sender and the recipient meeting. All of which feels like the perfect metaphor for the songs that Hales had written.
Hales says, “When I need to work something out I write a song. When I’m overwhelmed by a feeling I write a song. When there’s something I need to say but can’t say it, I write a song. There were things I needed to say and songs I needed to write for myself and once we were home and the piano was there, I started writing them. At some point I realised these songs were all letters, but not necessarily to be sent. Dead letters.”
The new single ‘Imperfect Cadence’ is classic Aqualung: a deceptively serene Hales composition which makes complex emotions sound simple, and that grows in stature and detail as the song unfolds. And like the recently released, Elton John-inspired ‘Fool’, it shows that ‘Dead Letters’ possesses all the quality that people first came enamoured with some twenty years ago. Whether the songs are dramatic and richly textured, or stripped-back, intimate lullabies, ‘Dead Letters’ is full of tunes which steadily expand in your subconscious until they reveal their full majesty
‘Dead Letters’ is now available to pre-order / pre-save HERE. In addition to digital formats, it will also be available on vinyl, CD and limited white vinyl formats.
Aqualung also announce details of their first UK headline show in seven years, an all-seated performance at London’s Bush Hall – the scene of several memorable Aqualung gigs – on November 25th. Tickets go on sale HERE at 10am tomorrow morning, July 29th. Support comes from Søren Lorenson, which is Hales’ collaborative project with Davide Rossi, a Grammy-winning musician whose credits include Coldplay, Goldfrapp and The Verve.