Tom Chaplin is one of the most underrated vocalists and performers of our generation. A bold statement, granted, but not one to be dismissed. As the lead singer of Keane, Chaplin and co made waves in the early 2000s with their own unique style of piano rock that conjured the classic album Hopes & Fears. Almost 20 years on, the band have continued to release great music, but also find time for other projects. During the bands hiatus in the early 2010s, Chaplin released his debut album Waves, a powerful collection depicting – in sometimes explicit detail – his struggles with addiction, mental health, and his relationships. Six years on, and post the return of Keane, Chaplin is back with another strong collection of songs.
All Fall Down is an understated opener that shows off Chaplin’s capacity for a ballad. His vocals fly effortlessly over the simple, piano-backed tune, and it sets the stage for more perfect performances down the line. In stark falsetto, he reminds the listener that ‘ we all fall down’, but that maybe he can slow you down, and show you the way back home. The angelic flourishes that begin the song also foreshadow what is to come in terms of the instrumentation. Nothing is without layers on this album – subtle motifs, intricate sound design. No song represents this stronger that Black Hole, which opens with children’s laughter and warped birdsong. There’s a positive message buried within the lyrics – which speak of love being a bluff, and life inevitably coming to an end – that suggest that we should expect the inevitable, and that we will all be much happy for it.
Title track Midpoint builds with masterful tension, culminating in crisp guitar and a beautiful choral ending, while second single Gravitational provides a much needed uplift in tempo, proceeding at pace with powerful drums and anthemic vocals. On New Flowers, Chaplin reflects on his age, singing of wanting to take a step back and watch the new flowers grow. It’s one of many poignant moments on the record where we get to understand Chaplin’s point of view, as a man who has lived a fast life and has now learnt to appreciate what he has left. Closer Overshoot is even rawer, stripping back the instrumentation further to show Chaplin’s vocal power. As endings go, it’s a haunting one.
Midpoint is a much less direct affair than Chaplin’s last solo album, both lyrically and instrumentally. It is a slow record that isn’t afraid to take its time, oozing with intriguing sound design, colourful production, and gorgeous melodies. Each song hooks you in, for one reason or another, and it leaves you with a renewed appreciation for a singer, performer, and songwriter that many will have heard, but fewer will know. In other words, it is an album worth taking the time for.
Writer and Musician, Ryan Bulbeck has been published with a number of online publications, and has worked with a myriad of great artists, both as a performer, and as a producer. His most recent band The 295 are still active, playing shows around the UK.