Album Review: Keane, “Hopes And Fears” (2004)

Keane came along during the second British invasion- that time period in the mid/late 2000’s where British bands were receiving significant attention and airplay in the States. If you only heard a handful of Keane’s songs, it would be hard to distinguish them from the other English bands of the time- what made them any different than Coldplay or Snow Patrol?

Because I loved all the Brit piano rock music of that time, I snapped up Keane’s debut, Hopes and Fears, when it was released in 2007. Sure, the music was a bit similar to Snow Patrol’s and I heard some similarities to Coldplay in some of the songs, but I found something intriguing about Keane’s music and lyrics. The lyrics (mostly written by the band’s pianist Tim Rice-Oxley) are introspective and well-written, and the music is lush and beautiful (thanks to drummer, Richard Hughes, guitarist, Jesse Quin and lead vocalist, Tom Chaplin).

The disc begins with the album’s biggest hit, Somewhere Only We Know. The melodic piano ballad also includes energetic drumming from Hughes, but the main draw of the song is Chaplin’s silky falsetto and the romantic lyrics (“And if you have a minute why don’t we go/Talk about it somewhere only we know?/This could be the end of everything/So why don’t we go/Somewhere only we know?”).

This Is The Last Time is another mid-tempo ballad, but the melody isn’t  too memorable until the soaring chorus, where Chopin’s warm vocals take over. Bend and Break is a bit more upbeat, though suffers from the same melodic mediocrity as the song prior to it. The chorus is again where the song picks up, with another catchy refrain and Chopin’s rich vocals, but musically, the song is pretty plain, overall.

Everybody’s Changing delves into the theme of friendships ending with its pensive, dejected lyrics (“I try to stay awake and remember my name/But everybody’s changing/And I don’t feel the same”). The tempo is upbeat, with a peppier performance from the drums and piano, giving off more of a bouncy, pop sound. There’s something slightly reminiscent of the 80’s new wave sound here, but it works well. We Might As Well Be Strangers is like a morose sequel to Everybody’s Changing; the music is slow and downtrodden, and the lyrics revisit the theme of lost friendships (“I don’t know your face no more/Or feel your touch that I adore/I don’t know your face no more/It’s just a place I’m looking for/We might as well be strangers in another town/We might as well be living in a different world”). Though a bit depressing, the song has always been a favourite of mine, particularly during the times when I can relate to the lyrics.

Keane2009

On the other hand, Your Eyes Open sounds like Keane’s channelling Coldplay. The track has a heavier rock sound, with electric guitar being added into the piano/drum mix, and the atmospheric chorus sounds like something right out of Chris Martin’s playbook- but it’s not really a bad thing. Even if the melody was borrowed, at least it’s interesting.

It’s really the last few songs on the album that I enjoy the most. Sunshine is a song I hadn’t noticed until I heard it in one of iTunes’ Genius mixes a couple of years after owning the album. I instantly fell in love with the song; the cheerful music (comprised of keyboards and a few synthesized sounds) and the breezy chorus (“Can anybody find their home?/Out of everyone/Can anybody find their home?/Lost in the sun/Can anybody find their home?”) instantly stuck with me. The simplicity of the song goes a long way in making it so enjoyable; the light, carefree feeling in the lyrics translates perfectly in the playful sound, making a perfectly catchy pop/rock song.

Untitled 1 is a mix between a straightforward piano ballad, and a more experimental rock sound. The bass and drums create a sort of futuristic feeling in the music, and Chopin’s surprisingly deep vocals in the chorus give off a shadowy, spooky vibe. However, the song picks up by the chorus, with echo effects being added to the vocals. This song sounds more like Depeche Mode than what you’d expect of Keane, but again, the musical influence is interesting and works well on the album.

The disc ends with, Bedshaped, a more traditional piano ballad, and one of the loveliest songs on the album. The melody is absolutely gorgeous, as are Chopin’s  vocals, particularly as he belts out the choruses (“You’ll follow me back/With the sun in your eyes/And on your own/Bedshaped/And legs of stone/You’ll knock on my door/And up we’ll go”).

Though I do prefer Keane‘s follow-up album, Under the Iron Sea to this one, I enjoy Hopes and Fears as well. Not every song will stand out, but the album is still a sturdy collection of beautiful piano-based songs, with thoughtful lyrics, and stellar vocals/instrumentation.

Rating: 200px-4_stars.svg

Track List
1. Somewhere Only We Know
2. This Is The Last time
3. Bend And Break
4. We Might As Well Be Strangers
5. Everybody’s Changing
6. Your Eyes Open
7. She Has No Time
8. Can’t Stop Now
9. Sunshine
10. This Is The Last Time
11. Untitled 1
12. Bedshaped

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oextk-If8HQ]
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