Well it's the middle of the summer, the sun is out, the birds are singing, and there is romance in the air. What a perfect time for the release of this year's album to fall in love to. In fact, as you are reading this review I can almost guarantee you that Hopes and Fears is aiding another pair of star-crossed lovers in the intertwining of their fluttering hearts!
Okay, okay so maybe that preface was a bit melodramatic, but hopefully you're catching the general drift of where this is going. If not, here it is: this album is beautiful and you should buy it immediately. If you haven't heard any of Keane's music it can basically be describe as stripped down Coldplay with an indie flare. The only instruments you will find on the album are piano, bass, and drums. While this might sound overly simplistic and dull, it's actually the opposite. A great deal of thought went into the structuring of the songs to avoid repetition. The three instruments are creatively molded together on each track to create differentiated moods and sounds. The album as a whole does however posses a certain vibe that runs through it and connects each piece.
When I first heard Hopes and Fears I was initially so awestruck by the instrumentation that I didn't pay much attention to the vocal work. It wasn't until about my third time through the album that I realized how brilliant the album was lyrically. The songs are simple, contain clear choruses, and are incredibly catchy. I'll be the first to admit that the record has some pop elements, but it's carefully balanced with artistic credibility. The album highlights are "This is the Last Time," and "Everybody's Changing." I would explain the content matter of each track in great depth, but I think the song titles pretty much sum everything up.
If you're not sold on this album yet, this paragraph may present the extra incentive you've been looking for. What is the best part about this album? $9.99... Thank you Interscope! Now you can afford to buy a copy for yourself and that mysteriously beautiful girl who make a point to "bump into" each morning at the coffee shop before work. Do yourself a favor and act quick, summer will be over before you know it and by that time it may be too late!
My first listen:
Let's get some facts straight. Keane is a three piece band. They don't have any guitars, instead there is a piano. They are also deemed as the "next Coldplay." That's quite a misnomer; Coldplay has a guitar, sometimes two, and rock a lot harder than Keane. And Coldplay doesn't even rock hard. They can't be the next Coldplay unless they get some guitars, and stop sounding like they're at a piano recital.*
There's almost something comedic in Hopes and Fears. It's too prim and proper, and a little cheesy. It has arbitrary synths in the songs, and they lack profound abstruseness in their lyrics. The first three tracks sound the same; a percussive piano, a barely-there bass, and delicate drumming while Tom Chaplin sings gloomy lyrics.
A couple of listens later:
It's not fair to punish them for the hype. It's not their fault that they sound different than what I expected. The arrangements are actually really stunning to a point that it's almost sickening. Tom Chaplin sings with confidence and power over the clean piano notes. Tim Rice-Oxley is the gifted multi-instrumentalist who plays every instrument except the drums on the album, which are played by Richard Hughes. The album is so rich and so very lovely; a little too refined for my tastes.
"Somewhere Only We Know" starts with an explosive piano and relatively heavy drumming, but the drums drop out to accommodate for Chaplin's smooth falsetto. The lyrics pull at the heartstrings with the rhetorical questions, "Oh simple things where have you gone?/Is this the place we used to love?/Is this the place I've been dreaming of?/If you have a minute why don't we go talk about it somewhere only we know?" The verses build up to a soaring chorus like in the other songs "This is the Last Time," "Bend and Break," and "We Might as Well Be Strangers." "This Is the Last Time" is more upbeat than the previous track with the pulsing drumming, and the choice of brighter notes. At first the choruses are beautiful, but track after track the choruses seem to be constructed the same which makes them slightly tedious.
"Everybody's Changing" has synths that don't seem to fit in with the song. The song also sounds too inspirational for the somber lyrical content. In "Sunshine" and "Untitled 1" the grand piano is replaced by keyboards, while more interesting bass lines and drum patterns are implemented. "Bedshaped" has a surprisingly full sound, therefore adding a guitar would probably ruin the essence of the song.
I hoped for the most, but I also feared the most. I hoped to hear a band that could compete with Coldplay, but I feared that I would hear a band that would fall short of their hype like many other recent bands. Keane, get some guitars, rock a little harder, marry some actresses, name your kids after fruits, and then maybe I'll talk about your band being the "next Coldplay."
*Note: I'm not even that much of a Coldplay fan, but I have Parachutes and A Rush of Blood to the Head.
7.7 / 10
Reviewed by 2 writers.
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