When Keane released their debut album, Hopes and Fears, in 2004, the richly justified critical praise was tempered by acknowledgment of the band’s obvious stylistic debts to Radiohead and Coldplay. But there was more going on in Keane’s piano-based panoramic pop than watered-down peer homage. Their unironic, gorgeously fey little tunes about the dangers and pleasures of amorous partnerships were almost histrionically obsessive.
Under the Iron Sea coats the group’s typically hand-wringing lyrics with layers of symphonic embellishment. But aside from a single misstep (the title track, an instrumental that could serve as the too-ponderous theme for an art film about the rise and fall of Atlantis), the strings and things work well, adding density and drama to enchanting tunes like ”A Bad Dream.” The pristine sound and hushed majesty of tracks like ”Hamburg Song” and ”Try Again” are seductive enough, but it’s Tom Chaplin’s lovelorn lyrics and overwrought near falsetto that really hook you. Mr. Pitiful never sounded more disconsolate than he does on ”Broken Toy,” which finds him sorting through the wreckage of an ill-fated love affair. ”I guess I’m a record you’re tired of,” he muses. To which we spontaneously reply: Not yet.