2004 (Universal Island Records)
“Hopes And Fears”, the critically acclaimed debut of the British band Keane, is not just a good album. In my opinion, the disc contains with “Somewhere Only We Know” one of the most beautiful pop songs ever. The intense way in which Tom Chaplin goes smoothly from note to note with his clear, high voice is wonderful, especially in combination with the effervescent keyboard playing of Tim Rice-Oxley. The sounds he extracts from his instruments have a pleasant reverberation around them. It’s almost heavenly. The bass guitar and drums are also comfortable in the song that has a catchy, just non-commercial rhythm. The nice thing about “Hopes and Fears” is that almost every song is as good as this opener. The reason why there are millions of copies sold worlwide.
Within Keane’s oeuvre (five full albums and one EP), “Hopes And Fears” occupies a special place as it has long been the only guitarless record. As a result, the music sounds disarming and fresh. I am tempted to call the sound virginal.
In terms of atmosphere, I would like to divide the album in two. The first part, which takes up more than half of the record, I see as ‘Hopes’, the second piece, where the songs are darker in tone, as ‘Fears’. Songs that absolutely fall into the first category are, in addition to Somewhere Only We Know, the sizzling Bend And Break and the catchy Everybody’s Changing. There are also two songs in this phase that have a small nod towards prog. When the vocals in We Might As Well Be Strangers are low I am reminded of Steve Hogarth of Marillion and the falcetto in She Has No Time sounds just like Jonsi (Sigur Ros). This album is only about alternative pop of course and when you hear a song like This Is The Last Time you are just okay with that. The dark facet of the album mainly occurs in the last three songs. I would like to note that the British version which I have, has one number extra. This is the Talk Talk-like On A Day Like Today.
Over the years Keane has continued to produce excellent music mostly. “Hopes And Fears” is by far there most beautiful album as far as I’m concerned. Excellent.