Today’s featured artist, Keane, released a trio of strong LPs and a fun EP between 2004 and 2010 before dropping the dreadful Strangeland in 2012. Following that bomb, the band put out a greatest hits record (presumably featuring nothing from Strangeland) and then fell silent.
Keane is like an NFL running back who has three and a half great seasons, then gets a knee injury, tries to come back the following year and just doesn’t have the same speed or ability to cut anymore.
He bounces around a couple of teams, clinging to a roster spot as a backup, then ends up out of the league selling mattresses or something. You just hope he was smart with his money during his heyday.
Their first record, Hopes and Fears, put them solidly in Coldplay territory, featuring smart piano pop with earnest lyrics and soaring choruses. On Under the Iron Sea, they hardened and deepened that sound and delivered their best album yet.
After three strong albums to start their career, English trio Keane released the experimental EP Night Train in 2010. Recorded while on tour in several different cities, the EP contained collaborations with international rappers and MCs.
Today’s track, ‘Stop For a Minute,’ features Somali rapper-singer-poet K’NAAN who trades verses with lead singer Ben Chaplin and raps toward the end of the song.
Over the next two weeks, I’ll count down ten of my favorite male vocalists in popular music. Notice I wrote “ten of my favorite” rather than “my ten favorite” because I’m sure I’m leaving some people out and I want to stress that this group is far from set in stone. That said, these are the ten I came up with after some deliberation so that counts for something.
Many of my favorite artists are lacking in the vocal department. That’s not to say they don’t sing their own songs well — in most cases, I can’t imagine those tunes sung by anybody else — but I’m a fan for other reasons. Bob Dylan is a prime example, but you can throw in Ben Folds, Rufus Wainwright, Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch and many others.
I have a soft spot for EPs. Artists who find themselves between albums — and the touring and publicity machine that comes with album releases — can keep their creative juices flowing with these musical quickies, and fans don’t have to wait years for new material. Favorite artists of mine such as Ben Folds and Belle and Sebastian have put out some of their best work on EPs.
The Web has made EPs something of an anachronism. It’s easier now to upload a new track to your website — paid or free — and offer up new music in breadcrumb fashion. That’s how Lil Wayne became the hottest rapper in the world before he ever released a proper album. But I remain a CD guy, and I prefer a physical EP to a group of downloaded songs that I can’t hold in my hand.
I have a small pile of CDs from the past year or so that I’ve never gotten around to reviewing. I even have draft posts sitting in the admin of the blog ready to go, but they’re sitting empty. I find it difficult to review albums, especially when I don’t feel strongly one way or the other and the artists aren’t in my stable of favorites. How many ways can you say “this is a pretty good album by a pretty good band?”
So I’m finally accepting that I’m never going to give these albums proper reviews but rather than ignore them entirely I’m going to pick a song from each to highlight the rest of this week as Songs of the Day.