Keane – Strangeland
Before the 7th May release of their new album Strangeland, Keane were floating in the purgatory between stadium-slaying and dinner party sound-tracking. Now they have finally broken through with this new album of stadium-busting anthems, one of The Upcoming’s ten albums you cannot miss this month.
The Sussex quartet’s fourth effort sees Keane go back to their roots with piano-led sof rock. It is exciting and has a refreshing sense of familiarity, as front-man Tom Chaplin uses his soulful vocals to make Strangeland a return to form. After their disappointing 2008 EP Night Train, it is encouraging to see that this time round they have created a smooth and accomplished set.
Strangeland begins with the vivacious You Are Young. It resonates like the shimmering dawn of a new day, before the bounce of the chorus effortlessly ignites. It is an absorbing, perfectly rendered window into the mind of song-writer and backing vocalist Tim Rice-Oxley. You Are Young proves a bombastic buffer before the deeply hypnotic throb of Watch How You Go.
Watch How You Go is a glossy ballad with a lyrical concoction of floaty melancholia and wisdom, a dramatic and skilful sliver of soft-rock that delivers a truly sumptuous result. It positively drips with class throughout; a stylish track from a voice steeped in experience.
Sovereign Light Cafe slots snugly into Keane’s 2004 hit Everybody’s Changing groove. It’s a surging, uplifting track with a big-hearted full sound. Neon River is a shade of beige which embraces dodgy 80s synth riffs and disconnected lilting vocals. However, On the Road defibrillates the sagging middle section. Bold instrumentation, skew-whiff synths and galloping rhythms accentuate Keane’s propensity for the esoteric. On the Road is squirming under the guise of a straightforward pop record.
The album concludes with Sea Fog, a ballad with celestial chiming vocals that shows Keane have not lost their shine. Finishing with a glorious choral, this is possibly one of the more refined compositions on the album. Beautiful in its simplicity, the well-considered melodies submerge into a sparse instrumentation accompanied by captivating lyrics.
Right from the off, Strangeland occupies the role of a formidable but wearied visionary. Keane’s story telling is simple, conjuring troubling scenes with an effortlessness that proves powerfully evocative. It’s a record of maudlin sadness coupled with moments of pure transcendence.
Spectacularly self-indulgent this may be, but when Keane are this absurdly ambitious, it is hard to pretend they are anything shy of impressive, and their priceless charm is thoroughly worth re-discovering.
Watch Keane’s standout track On the Road here: