Aqualung is a polite British fellow called Matthew Hales. Like many other polite British fellows influenced by but not terribly interested in sounding like Thom Yorke, Hales plays introspective pop-rock ballads seductive to students, wedding planners and people who shop at Banana Republic (but not Old Navy). His American debut, Strange and Beautiful (which compiles songs from Aqualung's previous imports), is full of carefully arranged wistfulness, and if it's not that strange, it's certainly beautiful. Opener Cary Brothers is the guy responsible for "Blue Eyes," from the Garden State soundtrack. He has a handful of other songs that sound like that, only not quite as good.

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Mikael Wood