Strangeland is an ironic album in terms of (perhaps accidentally) matching its style with its content. The lyrical content of the album is reflective; re-examining the decisions and moments of your past. At the same time, the musical style reflects on each of Keane's past three full length albums, focusing on reliving the style that made them famous in the first place on 'Hopes and Fears', while also incorporating elements of 'Under the Iron Sea' and 'Perfect Symmetry'. That being said, the album is somewhat more mature in nature than the previous three. The sounds are more melodic and focus on the vocals even more than their previous work. The lyrics have moved away from hostility towards acceptance, with Tim Rice-Oxley writing songs that look back at the tougher moments in life after deep thought. The result is less pure emotion than the other albums, containing messages and words of advice for people of a younger age to heed their warning and listen to their stories (some songs feel like a message to their own children). The result is the band pushing in a new lyrical direction (many reviews mention a 'Step Backwards' almost as though they missed the ways the band has moved in new directions). However, the album at times feels like the band is playing it more safe than they did on 'Perfect Symmetry', to the delight of those who did not enjoy the experimentation and to the disappointment of those looking for another new stylistic direction.
So where does 'Strangeland' match up compared to other Keane albums? 'Hopes and Fears' remains their most well received album by the general population, with the individual songs that the band may never be able to duplicate. 'Under the Iron Sea' remains their peak of musical achievement. The conditions of turmoil that created that album are difficult to recreate, and those emotional times are what created what I consider to be a masterpiece. The album as a whole is not as good as the first two, but to be honest they set the bar very high. Instead, the quality of the songs is more similar to 'Perfect Symmetry' with the classic 'Hopes and Fears' sound. Therefore, it will be well liked by fans of the band, but rarely pushes the boundaries of their capabilities.
I recommend that all fans of the band from the H&F/UTIS era buy this album, you will not be disappointed. Anyone who is looking for the experimentation of PS I recommend giving a few tracks a listen before making the investment. If you've never heard the band before, start with their first two albums and then try out Strangeland and Perfect Symmetry (I loved Perfect Symmetry, but many a Keane fan did not so proceed with caution). In terms of individual songs, "Sovereign Light Cafe" and "The Starting Line" are two of the better Keane songs out there and are must listens. "Silenced By The Night", "Disconnected", and "Watch How You Go" will take fans back to the H&F era, as they share similar qualities and are classic Keane tracks. "On The Road" and "Day Will Come" are highly upbeat and share qualities similar to the UTIS songs, while "You Are Young" and "Neon River" are the closest songs to PS. For a very mature and fresh sound from the band, try the melodic "Black Rain" and "Sea Fog", where beautiful vocals and melodies take the center stage. Not a poor track in the bunch, although most of the songs are not quite at that H&F/UTIS level.
In the end, I really like this album. I have now listened to it many times and it is a great addition to the Keane collection, or any album collection in general. It is strong start to finish and takes most fans back to the version of the band they fell in love with in the first place.