Tom Chaplin, “The Wave” (Island Records)
Keane singer Tom Chaplin bares his emotions and confronts his demons on “The Wave,” a solo debut with soaring vocals vulnerable and victorious.
Chaplin is honestly blunt in describing lapses and relapses while the album produced by Matt Hales (who records as Aqualung) stays musically close to his band’s traditions, stretching some of the styles but avoiding any sudden jolts.
“Hardened Heart” is Chaplin at his rawest — “How I wish I was not hurting everyone I know” — and also at his most hopeful, “I know that my hardened heart is beating still.” The penance comes included in the string-drenched confession. “The River” is reflective in a Blue Nile sort of way before accelerating with a burst of synths rarely heard anymore.
“Hold On to Our Love” echoes the melodic qualities of mid-70s McCartney, though Sir Paul rarely wrote lines as dark as “A shadow in between us/It’s slowly taking over everything.” The reassuring “Quicksand” wisely puts down the rose-colored glasses and offers realistic counsel to someone whose life has hardly been lived, while “Solid Gold” deftly blends acoustic guitar and electronic percussion with lovely harmonies from Nickel Creek’s Sara Watkins.
On the closing title song, Chaplin surrenders himself to “The Wave,” which thankfully carries homeward “these lonely scattered pieces” instead of again casting him out to sea.
Having verified his songwriting credentials, it should be fun to detect Chaplin’s compositional touches on Keane’s next album.