Album Review: Tom Chaplin – The Wave

Tom Chaplin – The Wave
Island Records

01. Still Waiting
02. Hardened Heart
03. The River
04. Worthless Words
05. I Remember You
06. Bring The Rain
07. Hold On To Our Love
08. Quicksand
09. Solid Gold
10. See It So Clear
11. The Wave

Tom Chaplin returns to the music scene without his Keane band mates with his debut solo record The Wave.

The album tells of the singers troubles following a bad period in his life filled with drugs and alcohol and the almost loss of everything he held dear.

The album has a thread of sadness and hope running throughout but in a way doesn’t sound whiney or have a feel sorry for me vibe.

Album opener Still Waiting is what you would expect from a member of Keane with the added twist of it being a bit more indie pop. There seems to be a bit more grit to the sound and the atmosphere than in a Keane release, you get a sense of the subject matters in this album which is a good sign in a opening track.

From here we go into Hardened Heart which was one of the pre-album release tracks and has a more Keane sounding vibe. Hardened Heart keeps the feeling and emotion thread going from Still Waiting perfectly.

Along with having the obvious Keane sounds and styles, The Wave also gives me a strong a-ha vibe, be it the music structure or Tom’s vocal being a little Morten Harket like and this shows up a lot on 3rd track The River, an electronic inspired pop song with jangly keys and guitars with a prominent synth lead in the chorus. This brings a nice bit of uplift to the somewhat somber opening to the record.

The Wave then takes another turn down the sad lane with Worthless Road, a beautiful piano based tune with lots of atmosphere and space which has a slight touch of Radiohead to it. This song clearly has a strong personal message to it with the repeating of I’m Sorry throughout the song.

The pace then jumps up again on I Remember You, a nice synth pad swirls its way through the background of the song with a nice little bit of electric piano and stabs of horns in the chorus.

Bring The Rain brings the tempo down again and features a weird double vocal at the beginning of both a clean take and wobbled robot like under take, it builds slowly and then explodes into a big Keane chorus.

Tom brings more vulnerability with Hold On To Our Love. Lead by the trusted piano, the song then brings in acoustic guitars and subtle strings. The song builds to a a final gospel inspired end.

Next up we have another pre-album released song Quicksand, This catchy little number became a instant ear worm for me upon first hearing it and again brings a bit of a lift from the previous vulnerability from Hold On To Our Love.

Solid Gold again brings the pace back down, this beautiful guitar led track floats along a soundscape somewhere between Keane, a-ha and Travis.

Solid Gold makes way for another Radiohead like soundscape in See It So Clear. The song starts with a slightly disjointed sounded drum beat with subtly placed keys underneath and then bursts into a more indie pop number with a throbbing bass line and does all that without losing any of the essence of the song. Tom also brings a slight gospel/choir feel to the end of the song. The song builds nicely and rises up your emotion along with it.

We end with the albums title track, The Wave is another vulnerable piano led song full of emotion. The use of Horns build up through the chorus giving it a big feel whilst maintaining space for all the elements to breath and evolve. Tom manages to capture the feeling of being at the beach on a cold rainy day in this song and indeed the album has a seaside feel of sadness about it.

To sum up, The Wave won’t disappoint fans of Keane, however it will also gain non Keane fans for its slight step away from the Keane formula and its gritty pop sensibilities. There is a lot of emotion and regret in this album and it comes through in a way that is not whiney or feel sorry for me.

Tom Chaplin has stepped out of the shadow of Tim Rice-Oxley with his songwriting on The Wave and deserves all the accolades for his writing that are afforded his bandmate.

For those who purchase the Deluxe Edition, you get an edition 5 tracks starting with Better Way which instantly struct me with ‘how did this not make it on the album?” an uptempo number which again brings in a gospel choir element towards the end.

Turning Back sounds the most Keane out of all the songs to this point whilst also keeping an arms distance to Tom’s normal musical home.

Love Wins starts in a modern sounding 80’s a-ha style and continues down that route throughout, this song could easily have been on the legendary Norwegians debut ‘Hunting High & Low’. Tom’s vocals are very Morten Harket on this beautiful little number.

Cheating Death is another solid offering and keeps the theme of the main part of the album alive, I will be honest, I expected this to be more somber and delicate a track than it actually is, this is a pure indie pop song with nice blends of piano and guitars throughout held together by some outstanding vocal work.

Tom again taps into a slight Radiohead vein on Bound Together, this acoustic number has a 90’s feel and vibe about it. This is the most radical of all the songs on The Wave simply because it breaks the formula of the rest of the album. This is the only track to have guitar featured has the prominent instrument which in turn makes it a nice way to end the album for those with the deluxe edition.

Out of the 5 bonus tracks on the deluxe edition of The Wave not one of them sounds like a track that would have been out of place on the main album and in fact I wonder how they didn’t make it to the final track listing.

If you can I would recommend getting the deluxe album version if not for anything else than you get 5 more amazing songs from a very talent singer and songwriter.

STAND OUT TRACKS: Worthless Words, Quicksand, Solid Gold, The Wave, Better Ways (Deluxe Edition), Love Wins (Deluxe Edition), Bound Together (Deluxe Edition)
RATING: 10/10


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