Score : 5.0/10
Keane’s new album is the black sheep in the family, out-casted and disappointing. It’s like a dad going in for an awkward hug—thanks, but no thanks. To be fair, Strangeland had a lot a live up to. And, well, it just fell short. Way short. Keane hit it on the nail in 2004 with “Somewhere Only We Know,” and even evolved into a Radiohead sound with Perfect Symmetry in 2008. Strangeland is like childhood regression, taking us back to early Keane, putting the choral arrangements and uplifting songs underneath a magnifying glass. Which was a mistake.
Tom Chaplin, the lead singer, is a skilled vocalist—good tone, good control. And the music is nice—good piano, good bass, good quality sound. However, the dramatically uplifting music is overshadowed by the repetitive, clichéd lyrics that make Strangeland annoying, generic, and forgettable.
The message of the album is clear: live life to the fullest, friendship is powerful, love prevails, blah blah blah. The message of this album is about as original as a paper towel. And for anyone listening for any substance past the sound, you won’t find it here. Strangeland is reaching out to touch our hearts, and our hearts, or at least, my heart, doesn’t want it.
The first song, “You Are Young” isn’t bad. In fact, I liked it, but only before I realized that all of the other songs were clones, lacking the creativity behind a really good song. In “You Are Young,” Chaplin tells the listener that “You’re shielded by the hands of love,” –inspiring, right? The next song, “Silenced By the Night” follows with words like, “You and I, we’re gonna rise again,” and “I’m not scared of this world when you’re here.” It’s supposed to be encouraging and exhilarating and heartening, but the whole time, I just wanted it to stop. The way the songs bleed into each other is exhausting.
This album is overworked; it’s too much to take in. The biggest problem is that Chaplin is only singing these songs; he’s walking through the motions. He’s not feeling them, and so the listeners can’t feel them as well. In his defense, one can only take so much inspiration. It must have been too much for him as well. Only in two songs, “Disconnected” and “Sea Fog,” do we get the chance to hear the music accompany Chaplin’s voice. “Disconnected” is easily the most interesting song on the album, and it breaks away from the uplifting pattern in the other songs with lyrics like, “We walk in circles / the blind leading the blind/ we’ve been disconnected somehow.” The final song on the album, “Sea Fog,” slows things down and focuses on Chaplin’s voice. The piano is quiet in this track, and the drums and harmonies are like whispers, redeeming the album and proving a crucial point: less is more.
Strangeland leaves a lot to be desired. It’s not going to hurt the band, but it sure didn’t help.
Recommended Tracks: “Disconnected” (Track 3), “Day Will Come” (Track 10), “Sea Fog” (Track 12)
Sounds Like: Coldplay, Snow Patrol, Radiohead
Reviewed by Maya Harris