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 rediscovering.
Strangeland is released by Island Records on 4th May 2012.
Watch Keane performing On the Road here: