I'd never heard of this guy until renisanz recommended his song "Pressure Suit", and once I'd listened to it a couple of times I fell in love with its geeky, atmospheric romanticism. But it wasn't until I bit the bullet and started checking out more tunes by the same artist that I realized just how versatile and clever this guy really was, and what a fabulous lyricist. His rhymes are natural but never predictable, and he can sustain a literary conceit without becoming pompous, which is a rare talent in itself:
You say I'm a black hole, a singularity
An old supernova, a phase in blind catastrophe
But once I was a star
A long time before that, somebody's sun...
Basically, Aqualung has everything I like about Coldplay (strong melodies, memorable riffs) and none of the things I don't (musical sameness, cringe-worthy rhymes, beating those memorable riffs into the ground). I came across a review of an Aqualung album which remarked that Chris Martin should be sitting in the corner taking notes from Matt Hales because this is how it's done, and I agree.
Also, Matt Hales references Comet in Moominland in the same song I just quoted ("Black Hole"), which endeared him to me for life. It's one thing to be a science geek with a knack for writing lovely tunes, and another thing to love the Moomins, and anybody who can combine the two gets my vote, no question.
Anyway, if you're interested in checking out a sampler of Aqualung tunes, you can do so here on Playlist.com, since LiveJournal seems to choke on such things.
Next up: Andrew Bird.