77. Song No. 822: “Be Beautiful” by Aqualung (feat. Luke Sital-Singh)
10 Futures, 2015
Selfishly, it was a rotten realization to find out that Matt Hales was erring more toward the producing side of music than the performing one. His musical persona Aqualung is one of those bands that is so much more than a band: It’s the college radio station and spring and charmingly intimate venues and traditions with my bestie and music I have come to love sharing, and his warm, chameleon vocals were a huge part of what defined the sound that defined so many meaningful moments and their musical associations. Feeling like one of my favorite musicians was just stepping away from the side of the recording studio that yielded record after record of songs I loved was a disappointment and clearly personal attack that I didn’t know how to process, but I knew it meant a steady stream I had once enjoyed was slowing to a trickle.
10 Futures, however, was a convincing argument otherwise. And a call to embrace musical evolutions that are too good to be ignored. It is an eclectic, brilliant collection of songs that proves Hales can do whatever the hell he wants in whatever capacity he wishes and turn out something… well, strange and beautiful. And it has Hales creating just as much as curating, which, I think, makes it easier to understand that his musical transition comes with an abundance of gifts to share.
But “Be Beautiful” is what sold me on this album (and it’s still the apex of a collection that is just stuffed full of treats, including some surprise returns to the Aqualung I fell in love with). Like, I cannot possibly overstate how even the whisper of a string section in contemporary music is an instant heart-on for me, so a swelling one that introduces and then punctuates four minutes and 14 seconds of a transcendently gorgeous, upbeat song is the staccato-burst that launched a thousand infinite repeats.