WHO ARE THEY? The veteran British pop-rockers who earned fame, fortune, awards and adulation in their homeland with their piano-based, guitar-free sound — but could never quite crack the North American market as successfully as peers like Coldplay.
WHAT IS THIS? Their fifth album and first studio effort in seven years was originally slated to be a solo release for pianist and main songwriter Tim Rice-Oxley — until frontman Tom Chaplin heard the songs and was impressed and moved enough to bring the band’s four-year hiatus and his own burgeoning solo career to a halt.
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? A comeback disc and a breakup album at the same time. Inspired by Rice-Oxley’s divorce, these revealing cuts unflinchingly examine the death of a relationship. And they do it against a musical backdrop that includes everything from soaring heartland rock reminiscent of latter-day Killers to Sparks-like synth-pop to heart-tugging piano-soul balladry.
WHAT WOULD BE A BETTER TITLE FOR THIS ALBUM? Many Unhappy Returns. Or maybe Group Therapy.
HOW SHOULD I LISTEN TO IT? With a weird mix of sympathy and gratitude for Rice-Oxley’s marital woes — and the bandmembers’ ability to take advantage of the artistic potential in it.
WHAT 10 WORDS DESCRIBE IT? Bittersweet, sentimental, confessional, tender, cathartic, yearning, weary, regretful, plaintive, sombre.
WHAT ARE THE BEST SONGS? The anthemic The Way I Feel and the dusty Put the Radio On might jump out at you, but virtually every cut here is superbly crafted and emotionally stirring.
WHAT WILL MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY SAY? ‘There has to be an easier way to make a great album. But probably not a more personal way.’
HOW OFTEN WILL I LISTEN TO THIS? It’s clearly the opposite of easy listening, but it’s more than captivating enough to lure you back for repeated spins.
IF THIS ALBUM WERE BEDDING, WHAT KIND OF BEDDING WOULD IT BE? A weighted blanket.
SHOULD I BUY, STREAM OR STEAL IT? Granted, the whole commitment thing didn’t work out for Rice-Oxley. But that shouldn’t stop you from saying ‘I do’ to this gem.