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Keane - Strangeland

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4 Reviews

Artist: Keane / Released: 7 May 2012 / Label: Island

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    4 Reviews
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      06.07.2012 19:37
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      A great return to form from Keane

      Keane have been around for years but only really made a real impact and became wellknown in 2004 when their album 'Hopes and Fears' reached number 1 in the album charts and spawned some of the biggest hits (Everybody's Changing, Somewhere Only We Know, Bedshaped etc). Two albums and an EP later, the band return with their 4th studio album 'Strangeland' and compared to the experiental and 'darker' tones of the last few records, 'Strangeland' brings back the catchy melodies and more commercial sound from the band.

      Keane are one of those bands that remain popular, but you never hear anybody talking about them and they should. In my opinion 'Strangeland' is much better than even their debut album. Tracklisting is as follows:

      1. You Are Young
      2. Silenced By The Night
      3. Disconnected
      4. Watch How You Go
      5. Soverign Light Cafe
      6. On The Road
      7. The Starting Line
      8. Black Rain
      9. Neon River
      10. Day Will Come
      11. In Your Own Time
      12. Sea Fog

      I think a lot of reviewers are being unfair by describing this album as bland. It's an album full of 'sing along' tracks with catchy melodies, guitars and strings. The lead single 'Silenced By The Night' is a true representation of what the album is like. If you've heard that track then you'll know its a very poppy radio-friendly track. Forthcoming single 'Soverign Light Cafe' is an obvious choice for a single and is one of the catchiest songs on the album and guarenteed to have you singing along to it. I think overall 'Disconnected' is my favourite song on the album, it's typical Keane and a track that would fit perfectly on the debut album.

      Other highlights on the album include the heartwarming ballad 'Watch How You Go', 'On The Road' is a upbeat pop track that stands out on the album. 'Neon River' also seems to be an early favourite amongst the fans. The trio of 'The Starting Line', 'Day Will Come' and 'In Your Own Time' are perfect pop offerings and the album closer 'Sea Fog' is a dreamy beautiful ballad that brings the album to a perfect close.

      I would reccomend this album to anybody who enjoyed the bands first album. Although i'm not overly familliar with their later albums, if you liked that song 'A Bad Dream' from their second album then again, this album will be for you.

      The album is one of my highlights for 2012. It's a great album and shows what the band are capable of.

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      12.06.2012 07:52
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      Keane return to safer ground, but it's just a little boring

      When Keane first hit the scene nearly a decade ago, they were famed for being the band without guitars. I was initially sceptical, with the rock fan in me not believing that anything good to happen without guitars. But sheer musicianship won me over and, given that their debut "Hopes & Fears" was the second best selling album in the UK in 2004 and won the Best Album Brit Award in 2005, I clearly wasn't alone.

      Since then, Keane have followed a more traditional path through the music industry. They've had a member in rehab, they've changed a band member and they've had an album which was a departure from their usual sound. They've managed to retain their fan base throughout everything, with "Strangeland" being their fifth consecutive Number 1 album in the UK charts, something even bands like Oasis never achieved.

      The album opens with the jaunty synthesiser line to "You Are Young", which gives the song a pop feel and reminds me of the quieter moments in 1980s period U2. Once the piano comes in, the song expands into something quite anthemic and the U2 comparison remains, even down to the "Woah..." lyric towards the end of the song. As I vastly prefer U2's older output to their more recent songs, this isn't a bad way to start as far as I'm concerned.

      Next up is "Silenced By the Night", which again has a jaunty beat which helps to move the song along quite nicely. This tracks doesn't quite have quite the same pop edge and reminds me a little of Snow Patrol or early Killers songs. Part way through it does descend into a strange break, which did disrupt the flow of the song and my enjoyment of it slightly.

      The third track, "Disconnected" has a slightly gentle opening that reminds me a little of The Beatles in places, such is the vocal delivery. Once the chorus kicks in, however, the song gets more of a heavy pop feel and it feels a little more like an Orson song. I quite like Orson, so this isn't a problem for me, but there is again a slower middle eight that disrupts the flow a little.

      After quite an upbeat start to the album, it's a slight disappointment that "Watch How You Go" doesn't just sound like the kind of thing my mother would say, but also turns out to be the kind of thing she might listen to. This is a piano led ballad that, thanks to the vocal delivery, sounds a little like some of Paul McCartney's solo work, thanks to the pop ballad feel. It's a decently put together track, but it's a little bland, especially compared to what has come before. Still, at least this time there's no awkward middle eight to disrupt the rhythm of the song, although maybe this time it would have been more welcome.

      Fortunately, we're back to the upbeat tracks for "Sovereign Light Cafe". There's a decent beat to the song, driven along by the drums, but the synthesiser adds to this and it's a well rounded heavy pop song that bounces along quite happily. It's a decent track and possibly one of my favourites on the album, at least up until this point.

      "On the Road" is another upbeat song, with a driving drumbeat behind it. This one has the anthemic heavy pop feel of 1980s U2 or Simple Minds, particularly as the vocals do evoke Jim Kerr's, especially during the verses. There's a big sing along chorus that really cements that feeling into place. As I'm very much a child of the 80s, at least in musical terms, this is definitely a good thing as far as I'm concerned.

      There's an interesting intro to "The Starting Line" before it changes tone slightly and has the piano led ballad feel of "Watch How You Go" return. However, this time around, when the chorus kicks in, it expands musically and turns into something far more impressive than that earlier track, getting some of the stadium ballad feel that you can imagine a whole crowd waving lighters aloft along to. Although it's another pop ballad, it's certainly a vast improvement on the previous effort.

      The synthesiser and what sounds like a programmed rather than live drumbeat open "Black Rain". It's quite a downbeat track, much darker in tone to anything that has come before and whilst it's got that about it to help it stand out, unfortunately there just isn't enough about the track as a whole to make it anything other than somewhat bland. It's a dark pop ballad with a falsetto vocal that just seems to shuffle its way past you all the way to an unmemorable end.

      There's another interesting synthesiser opening to "Neon River", but the opening verse is strangely dark and disappointing after that. Fortunately, as the song gets going, things do liven up a little and it soon develops into the kind of stadium heavy pop that, not for the first time on the album, evokes 1980s U2. The longer the song goes, the more this feeling takes root, as it adds a few more layers and a little more depth and by the end of what is the album's longest track, especially during the musical break about 3 minutes in, I can picture Bono's "Joshua Tree" era mullet standing at the microphone singing this one. How you feel about this song is more about how you feel about U2 than how you feel about Keane, but fortunately I was and remain a fan of U2's older work.

      By contrast, "Day Will Come" is a little all over the place. It starts with a synthesiser that New Order might have been proud of, before developing a U2 style drum beat and then having a more indie-pop vocal reminiscent one again of the Killers. Once the song does finally settle down to its final anthemic feel, it turns out to be an upbeat and enjoyable track and certainly sticks out as being one of the more exciting tracks on the album. Potentially thanks to it being the shortest song on the album, it is one of the few tracks here that seems to be over too soon.

      "In Your Own Time" has an interesting synthesiser beat to it, but this is overlaid by nothing especially interesting, which feels like a bit of a waste. It's a pleasant enough song, but it drifts by with little to stand out and whilst it's a decent enough pop song, there's little that you can grab onto it with and it drifts harmlessly by, albeit fairly quickly thanks to its up-tempo nature.

      In ending the album, "The Fog" eases things out quite nicely, but sadly it's another piano based ballad and whilst it does have an eerie sound and a nicely downbeat feel in the chorus, I can't help but want to sing McCartney's "Mull of Kintyre" over the intro and the opening verse, which for me completely ruins any ambience Keane were trying to put onto the song.

      "Strangeland" isn't a particularly bad album by any means, but it is a little bland and, following on from the departure from Keane's norm that was "Perfect Symmetry", it feels like something of a backward step. If your favourite Keane album was "Hopes & Fears", then you're more likely to get something out of this than if you enjoyed "Perfect Symmetry" much more. Of course, if you never liked Keane at all or, for that matter, 1980s era U2, this album will do little to change your mind.

      For existing fans of the band, it's consistent enough with their earlier works to pay £8.99 for a new copy from Amazon and even more so the £5.99 copies have been seen for on the Amazon Marketplace or the £7.40 mp3 download, also from Amazon. But if you're new to the band, the recency of the album will make prices high enough to not be worth the risk and a better introduction would be a £1.98 copy of "Hopes & Fears" from the Amazon Marketplace.

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      08.06.2012 16:12
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      An average fourth album from Keane

      Keane is one of those bands that remind me of the time that life was rubbish but music was great - 2004 and thereabouts. Their first album, Hopes and Fears, was one that I listened to very regularly and I have very fond memories of songs such as 'Bedshaped' and 'Somewhere Only We Know'. I continued to listen to this album for another few years, but have to say that they fell off my radar somewhat after that and I didn't buy any of their subsequent releases. I believe my parents bought their second album, 'Under the Iron Sea', as a lot of its tracks are familiar, but I never owned it or their next album, 'Perfect Symmetry', which was released in 2008. I have to say that, save for a single being played on the radio here and there, I had heard practically nothing of Keane's work since 2004 and had almost forgotten that they had existed. After hearing good things about their most recent studio album, 'Strangeland', however, I decided to give the band another go and see if they could rekindle the enthusiasm I felt for 'Hopes and Fears'.

      == Strangeland ==

      Strangeland is British band Keane's fourth album, which was released about a month ago, on 7th May 2012. On its release it received mixed but mainly positive reviews and reached the number one spot in the UK album charts. The band say that they made sure to focus more on songwriting and be more reminiscent of their first two albums rather than 'Perfect Symmetry', which they say had more of a pop feel and was 'self-indulgent'. 'Strangeland' features twelve tracks, two of which have already been released as singles ('Silenced by the Night' and 'Disconnected') with a third track, 'Sovereign Light Café', to be released as a single later in the summer.

      == What I Thought ==

      I have to confess that I haven't been listening to this album for very long and so this review will lean its focus more towards my first impressions of 'Strangeland' rather than how well it stands up to repeat listening.

      My instinct after having listened to it once or twice is to say that I like this album. While it's not quite what I remember of 'Hopes and Fears' era Keane, which consisted of more piano-based and often melancholy tracks, I have a lot of praise for the current decade's Keane with its decidedly cheerier music. I find myself particularly enjoying what will be their next single, 'Sovereign Light Café', and think that with its upbeat tempo and nostalgic atmosphere it is set to be a radio hit. It has a catchy and happy chorus and, even after only having heard it a couple of times, I found myself dancing and slightly singing along to it. I feel similarly about the song that follows it on the album, 'On The Road', which is also a very cheery and upbeat track that, while hardly a club track, is one that is very easy to dance and sing along to. Other upbeat (or relatively so) songs worth mentioning include their single 'Disconnected', which I have to say I haven't really heard on the radio or elsewhere, but find it to be a good single choice with a solid chorus.


      There are, however, still some slower and sadder songs to be found on this album but they still very much feel like new Keane songs and would have been completely out of place on 'Hopes and Fears'. One of such songs is 'The Starting Line', which has more of a sombre tone than the previous two songs I mentioned. While it's technically a decent song I have to say that I prefer the album's happier offerings and feel that upbeat songs is probably more the direction that the band should be taking. 'Watch How You Go' and 'Black Rain' are other songs that fit into this sombre category and again, they're decent, but definitely not among my favourites on the album.

      == Conclusion ==

      I have to say that, on the whole, I enjoy 'Strangeland'. While I can't profess as much enthusiasm for it as I did for 'Hopes and Fears' back in the day, there are some really good songs featured here. This album is mainly akin to their debut in terms of having very strong singles, which undoubtedly has a lot to do with the success of both albums. I apologise that I cannot compare 'Strangeland' to 'Under the Iron Sea' or 'Perfect Symmetry', but I am not familiar enough with them to do so. I do think that cheerier numbers is the best fit for Keane at the moment and hope to see more of them on any future releases. I would technically recommend this album, but find that the singles are its strongest component, so you may be better off downloading them than buying the album if you enjoyed them. 'Strangeland' currently costs £8.99 from Amazon, which is a decent price, but check the tracks on Youtube, for example, to check you like enough of them for it to be worth buying.

      Track Listing

      1. You are Young
      2. Silenced By The Night
      3. Disconnected
      4. Watch How You Go
      5. Sovereign Light Café
      6. On The Road
      7. The Starting Line
      8. Black Rain
      9. Neon River
      10. Day Will Come
      11. In Your Own Time
      12. Sea Fog

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      04.06.2012 17:36
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      Some minor niggles but overall, 5/5!

      Keane
      --------

      Keane are a four piece British indie rock band. The band formed in 1997 and released their first single in late 1999 and have since produced and released an impressive four studio albums. Keane are a band that I first became aware of in my early teens after recieving their first album - Hopes and Fears for my birthday from a family friend who must of assumed that I was into their music as to be fair I was a bit of an emo back then!

      I put the CD to one side as I wasn't familar with them, however after hearing one of their songs on the radio in the car I fell in love and listened to the whole CD when I got home. I went through a brief phase of loving their music and being slightly scarily obsessed with the lead singer Tom Chaplin, but then I just kind of.. lost interest.

      Although Keane have since released another three albums, it is only the latest that I decided to purchase on iTunes as I was sent a link to one of the tracks while talking to a friend on Skype and I really liked it. Up until recently I had completely forgotten about the band but I'm glad that I've re-discovered them as their music is beautiful to listen to as well as relateable, in my opinion.

      Keane have a unique sound, but if I had to compare their style of music to any other band it would probably be Secondhand Serenade, The Kooks or any other indie type of band - most of their music is an Emo kid's dream as it's very emotional, truthful and gentle, yet it isn't 'feel sorry for me' kind of music and it isn't cringeworthy or boring - despite their being genuine emotion in most of the songs it comes across in a subtle, relateable way.


      The Band Members
      ------------------------

      Tom Chaplin - Lead singer & guitarist
      Tim Rice-Oxley - Backing singer & pianist
      Richard Hughes - Drummer, percussion
      Jesse Quin - Backing singer, guitarist & percussion

      Strangeland
      ----------------

      Strangeland is Keane's fourth and most recent full length studio album. It is produced by Dan Grech-Marguerat and was released on the fourth of May 2012 - over four years since their last studio album. Keane spent over two years song writing and working on tracks for the album. The band have stated that they intended for the tracks to sound 'richer and simpler' than the songs on their previous three albums. The album is inspired by The Vaccines debut album, which Keane said that they loved.

      A massive 47,839 copies of Strangeland were sold within a week of its release, resulting in it debuting at number one on the UK Albums Chart - impressive considering how long they've been out of the music scene. The album also became numeber one in the Ireland and Netherlands charts. Strangeland is internationally available with an original edition (12 tracks), deluxe edition (16 tracks) as well as a Japanese edition (17 tracks).

      I was a little apprehensive about listening to the tracks on the new album, because although I love their old stuff I wans't sure if I'd kind of outgrown them and I also thought that the songs might be un-original and boring, however I admit that I was completely wrong! After listening to just one track I fell in love all over again with their music and purchased the album via iTunes and I'm thoroughly glad that I did - this stuff is absolute ear candy!


      Price and Availability
      --------------------------

      As Strangeland is such a recent and popular album it's very easily available and can be purchased from the usual places such as CEX, HMV and so on. Supermarkets including Tesco and Asda also stock it. Online stores such as Amazon, eBay, Play and so on sell physical copies while digital copies are available from iTunes.

      Prices obviously vary depending on where you buy the album. Prices range from around £7.99 to £12 for the original (none deluxe) edition. I bought my copy of the album via iTunes and paid £7.99 which in my opinion is a very reasonable price for such a recent, twelve track album. Individual tracks from the album can be purchased for 99 pence each.


      The Songs
      -------------

      There are twelve full length tracks on this album.

      You Are Young is the first track on the album. I instantly really liked this song the first time that I listened to it, but now I love it! It's catchy with an upbeat, fresh kind of sound to it and I love the way that Tom sings in such a unique and gentle manner whilst making the song fun to listen to and it's very easy to sing along. The song is basically about enjoying your childhood/youth as these are your care free days, or in the words of Keane, these are the sacred days.

      The song is a lot different to Keane's older stuff as it's a lot more 'pop' rather than rock, but they have their own unique way of making it instantly recognizeable as a Keane song. The song is a feel-good song which is the type that wouldn't sound out of place at a family barbeque in the sunshine. The instrumentals are flawless and build up nicely. The vocals are great too with every word clear enough to hear and they're really relateable. There's not a huge amount of depth so the song is more of a song to relax or dance to rather than a song that tells a meaningful story.

      Silenced by the Night is the second track. Again, this is a lot different to Keane's older stuff with a very 'happy' and energetic atmosphere right from the start. It reminds me a lot of The Killers for some reason, but it does have a lovely fresh and new feel to it. The vocals are good, but I don't like the real high notes - they're a little cringey to be fair, but despite this I still like the song. The chorus is catchy, with really good lyrics. It's about feeling lost in the world and like a stranger/odd one out amongst people but having that one person that makes everything okay, but not having that person around anymore, hence the 'I wanna love the way we used to then'.

      Although the song is clearly about missing someone and reminiscing about the past/a past relationship, it's suprisingly upbeat and it's hard not to sing along! Tom's vocals are strong and have a strange tone to them, kind of like false aspirations and hopes, like he's given up but can't admit it - he reflects his emotions in his tone of voice really well and this is another fab, catchy song which I can't really fault apart from the high notes which I personally am not to keen on.

      Track number three is Disconnected. Rather an un-appealing, generic song title but it's a decent song. The intro is pretty 'My Chemical Romance' esc with a boring tone, but it soon gets going. The vocals soon become stronger and more upbeat with relateable and at times slightly humerous lyrics with a minimal tone of sarcasm. The song's about being too close for comfort to someone, falling out constantly and eventually falling out of love. Despite being a song about a break up it's uplifting, easy to sing along to and I like the range in high and low notes, as it kind of changes the tone of the 'story' being told about the relationship disintergrating.

      It's a good-feel song and I'm sure everyone will be able to relate to this one!! Watch As You Go is a much slower song which is more like their older songs. The song isn't great, I find it a little repetitive to be fair but not to the point of being boring. The song is about a girl who the singer thinks the world of leaving him and he learns to accept it with the logic of 'nothing ever lasts that long'. It's a pretty sad song, but I personally couldn't find much 'real' sounding emotion in it. It's still a nice, relaxing song though, just not one of my favourites. The instrumentals are good but all in all an unmemorable song.

      Sovereign Light Café is the fifth track on the album. This is the first track that I heard before buying the album and I really liked it. It has a very optimistic feel and it's fast paced and builds up really nicely. The vocals are strong with fast-paced, fun instrumentals. The song is simply about friends and/or lovers looking back at the past times they spent together and memories that a certain place holds. It also briefly delves into the 'you can't change your past so accept it' type of view. It's feel-good and it's probably one of my favourite songs on the album.

      Track six is On the Road - a very catchy song about making a fresh start and becoming independant but still having people to rely on. I'm not keen on the vocals.. they're a little all over the place but the chorus is undeniably catchy and the lyrics have a feel-good, re-assuring feel. The Starting Line is the second track on the album. The intro is gorgeous and I love the feel of the song which has almost an eerie sound to it at points in my opinion. I like how the singer's vocals go from slow and depressed to really encouraging and optimistic, with the message of not living in the past and to move forward depsite bad things in the past.

      Black Rain is the eighth track. It starts out slowly with a relaxing tone, with instrumentals which build up nicely. The vocals are really good in this song, and Tom shows off his vocal abilities nicely. This song is slightly darker than the others with depressing lyrics, but I like this as it shows that Keane haven't completely ditched their old style. It's a song about feeling lost and lacking in hope. Track nine, Neon River is another of my favourites. It's one of those songs that I just replay over and over. The song is about trying to impress a girl because he loves her, but she's just leading him on and using him. Really upbeat (despite the subject matter!) with fab vocals and lyrics.

      Track ten - Day Will Come has a vibrant, 80s sound to it. It has a The Smith's twang to it in my opinion bizarrely enough lol. It's really fast paced and uplifting, not a huge amount of depth to it but it's a kind of reassuring and optimistic feel-good song. Can't really fault it! In Your Own Time is the eleventh song. This is a gorgeous, reassuring song - the type that really speaks to the listener. It's about moving on and getting out of a rut. It's a gorgeous song and I love how Tom admits 'I'm as lost as you are lost these days'. Sea Fog is the final track on the none deluxe version. I absolutely love this one.. it's gorgeous and so gentle. It's a lovely outro with outstanding vocals.

      Overall
      ---------

      Overall, I really like this album as it has such a varied style - every song sounds new and unique. Although there are a couple of songs I'm not keen on, the positives outweigh the (minor) negatives by far and I can not reccomend Strangeland enough.

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