Saturday, May 28, 2005

Hopes & fears

album review

Album: Hopes And Fears
Band: Keane

Riding on the success of their hugely popular singles including 'Somewhere Only We Know' and 'Everybody's Changing', 'Hopes And Fears' is the twelve-track debut by Keane, the three-piece from Sussex who specialise in piano-driven ballads. The album was even nominated for a Mercury Award and proves that a band can indeed survive without a guitarist!

An indie crossover of sorts, Keane has often drawn comparisons to the likes of Radiohead and Coldplay. True, singer Tom Chaplin's voice is somewhat similar to that of Thom Yorke and the band's overall sound is at times reminiscent of Coldplay, but what Keane lacks is the edginess - the very element that makes Radiohead great and Coldplay so critically acclaimed. The album offers absolutely no surprises and sees Keane stick to the same sound as the singles, which is probably why half way through the set the monotony factor starts to set in.

The current formulaic pop vibe that can be heard on tracks like 'Bend And Break' and 'Can't Stop Now', even though fine as such, would have been more effective if the band was willing to take a bit more chance and not bind the structure of their tracks to that one blueprint. While the easy-listening aspect works for the band in most parts, but its this same factor that makes the album quite predictable and repetitive.

The tracks from a standalone view are all nicely done piano filled anthems, but the album does not have as powerful an impact as it should have had. That said, 'Hopes And Fears' isn't altogether bad. It's a better debut than many bands can even dream of, and if you like the singles the band has released so far, then you're very likely to enjoy listening to the album too.

- By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 27th May, 2005

Monday, May 16, 2005

Pulling heartstrings

video review

Song: 'Kahani Mohabbat Ki'
Band: Strings
Director: Umar Anwar

Since the release of their latest album Dhaani in 2003, Faisal Kapadia and Bilal Maqsood have established themselves as the leaders of our pop scene. With an appearance on the Spiderman 2 soundtrack, and after receiving multiple award nominations and bagging most of these accolades, the Strings are one of the most popular bands of the region, and Dhaani has been a major force behind this success. The set has spawned many hits for the band, and they have just released the sixth video from the album.

The new offering, 'Kahani Mohabbat Ki', is a mellow song about lost love and all the yearning that comes with it. Penned by Anwer Maqsood, 'Kahani' is both lyrically and vocally one of the more powerful songs on Dhaani and it comes as quite a surprise that the duo would wait this long to release its video. 'Kahani' showcases what the band does best -- rich mid–tempo vocals blended with that typical Strings–ish guitar–flute fusion.

And with the video, the track gets the Umar Anwar treatment, and that can only mean something good. The brains behind the clips of Jal's 'Aadat' and EP's 'Waqt', this relatively new entrant in the music-video-direction arena has become well known for his deep, offbeat ideas, and he continues to uphold this reputation with 'Kahani' by delving into the rather risky area of murky feelings, the result of which can either be very effective or very insipid. Fortunately, in this case, it falls right on target.

Very different from the previous Strings videos, 'Kahani' is rooted in emotion, and all that can be felt better than it can be explained. It portrays the feeling of loss, of loneliness, and of waiting...perhaps even waiting for something when one knows deep down inside that it ain't coming.

The video shows a lonesome maiden who sits all forlorn outside a railway station, waiting for someone's arrival. But he doesn't show up. Under the shining sun or falling rain, she just sits there, oblivious to reality, thinking of all that used to be. Then the loneliness sets in, and that's when the tears begin to fall. With the rain pouring, she reminisces with a picture and some old tickets in hand, and cries hysterically. She walks away in the end, but will be back the following day; she's just stuck in that furrow, clinging on to the past, and never getting on with life. She'll sit there and wait for him to come, through he never will.

The lead character is the main element in propelling the feel of the video, and forms the fulcrum of the clip, even so that the band takes a backseat while this character takes centre stage. Played by ace actress Iffat Rahim, whose resume also includes an appearance in Junoon's 'Yaar Bina', this role is the backbone of the whole video, with the entire concept revolving around her. Iffat shines in the portrayal of a person who is lost in her own world, distant from reality, and everything fits perfectly with the visuals.

The second important element in the video development is the ambience. From the rain and the fallen leaves to the very generous helping of orange hues, depicting an autumn-like feel, it all complements the lyrical content quite well. The ambience umbrellas the central role, and it all gels up to envelope the feel of the song. Surely nothing could've stirred up emotion better.

Everything from the rain scenes to the Strings performing in an alleyway-type-place is very nicely executed. But the video isn't just good because of what it is, but also because of what it isn't -- it isn't a rip off of a foreign clip, it isn't inspired by a musical, it isn't a paperback-novel storyline, and it certainly isn't an attempt at following the crowd. And originality always scores high, at least in my books.

Fresh off directing the new video for 'Hai Koi Hum Jaisa', this is the second Strings video that Umar has worked on, and the Strings–Umar Anwar collaboration seems to be going great guns. The short-film feel of 'Kahani', perhaps one of the most touching clips to hit the screen in the recent past, makes it all the more dynamic. With no elaborate costumes and without intricate tangled up characters, it's actually the simplicity of the video that makes it all the more effective. High on murky sentiments, perhaps even to the extent of entering the depressing category, the point behind the video was to evoke emotions, and that's exactly what it manages to do. Kudos to Umar Anwar for yet another subtle piece of work.

- By Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 15th May, 2005