It's taken me two years to listen to this album the entire way through. Of course, that's just a testament to my own laziness and not anything about the album itself. But, since I'm seeing Keane live soon, not to mention their sophomore debut dropped recently, it seems like the perfect time to give Hopes And Fears an airing.
Keane, who began as a Beatles/U2/Oasis cover band, hit it big with the release of their fifth single, the third from their debut album Somewhere Only We Know. It got to #3 and, in turn, catapaulted Keane onto the scene. Not surprising, as the single definitely has to be one of the best in recent years; replacing guitars with piano, combined with a sweeping chorus and lead singer's Tom Chaplin's distinctive vocals (most comparable to Radiohead's Thom Yorke), "Somewhere Only We Know" creates an instant epic for the band.
Emerging around the same time as acts like Snow Patrol, Franz Ferdinand and Scissor Sisters could've put the focus on Keane on the back burner, but the British trio instead enjoyed the second-best sales in the UK that year and snatched up awards for Best British Album and British Breakthrough Act, in addition to a Best Songwriter of the Year nod to pianist and bassist Tim Rice-Oxley (who was even invited by Chris Martin to join Coldplay before Keane became successful). Not surprising, though; the band reach their stride with their subdued romanticism, fueled by their delicate piano backdrop.
"Everybody's Changing" is Keane at their best; it's the track that drew me in immediately as it's probably the most upbeat on the album, featuring hooks galore, interludes of piano and an anchoring drumbeat. Somehow, the band manages to create a lush soundscape with just piano, bass, drums and vocals. Also worth mentioning are the sparse "She Has No Time" where Chaplin shifts into a seamless falsetto and the darker, more moody "Your Eyes Open," which makes up for its slightly less memorable lyrics with a soaring chorus.
Things do start to sound a bit formulaic about two-thirds of the way in, like on "Can't Stop Now," but the band to mix things up a bit with a new beat and some synths for "Untitled 1" (which likely gains its title from the fact that it's more based on showcasing instruments instead of making any lyrical impact).
This album is one of those tricky ones that take a while to get through, but it ultimately pays by revealing its depth and scope in crafted layers. Only time will tell if Keane are the revolutionary act they've been heralded as, but Hopes And Fears hold you over until then.