Hopes and Fears was UK-based alternative rock band Keane’s debut studio album, originally released through Island Records/UMG in May 2004. The album was a massive success, spawning four top-20 singles in "This Is The Last Time," "Bedshaped,” "Everybody's Changing," and the group’s signature song "Somewhere Only We Know."

Now, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hopes and Fears, producer David Kosten (who previously worked with Keane on 2019’s Cause and Effect) has created brand-new Dolby Atmos mixes of the original 12-track album and bonus song "Love Actually." Fans may already be familiar with Kosten from his recent work on the Atmos remixes of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells (1973) and Paul Young’s No Parlez (1983).

Though you can stream Kosten’s Atmos mix on Apple Music, Tidal, and Amazon Music, it’s also available on an audio-only Blu-Ray disc sold exclusively via SuperDeluxeEdition.com. Hopes and Fears is the 21st entry in their ‘Surround Series’ of Blu-Ray discs containing spatial audio mixes, which began in 2022 with Tears For Fears’ The Tipping Point.

Keane Hopes and Fears Dolby Atmos 5.1 IAA David Kosten

Interestingly enough, this isn’t the first time Hopes and Fears has received a multichannel remix. Fans may recall that in addition to the standard CD release, the album was also issued in the high-resolution Super Audio CD and DVD-Audio/DualDisc formats back in 2004. Both releases contained a 5.1 surround sound mix of the album by Nathaniel Kunkel, who’d helmed the 5.1 remixes of other iconic albums such as James Taylor’s JT (1977) and Chris Botti’s Night Sessions (2001).

At least to my ears, Kosten’s new immersive interpretation of the album is a considerable improvement over the 2004 5.1 release. The Atmos mix features far greater separation of the individual instruments, showcasing all kinds of previously-hidden elements like a percussive synthesizer part in the rear height speakers throughout “Somewhere Only We Know” and a distorted electric guitar in the left side channel during “Bend and Break.”

Though the position of each element varies from track-to-track, the drum kit, bass guitar, and lead vocal are consistently kept largely confined to the front stage. The side, rear, and height channels are deployed for additional instrumentation such as the pianos, synthesizers, percussion, and backing vocals.

Keane Hopes and Fears Dolby Atmos 5.1 IAA David Kosten

Conversely, the 2004 5.1 mix duplicates much of the instrumentation across the front and rear speakers. There are a few unique elements that appear behind the listener, but the overall soundstage has more of a ‘big stereo’ feel–which I found far less engaging than the ‘inside-the-band’ perspective the new Atmos version offers.

That said, one key detail I do miss from that old 5.1 mix is having Tom Chaplin’s amazing vocals focused primarily in the center channel. For the Atmos mix, Kosten has instead opted for a more traditional front 'phantom' center placement (though the vocal interestingly travels over to the left side speaker at the end of "On A Day Like Today").

Perhaps the best feature of the new Dolby Atmos mix is the enhanced dynamic range. The ‘loudness wars’ were in full swing when Hopes and Fears was first released back in 2004, affecting both the original stereo release as well as the 5.1 surround mix. “We Might As Well Be Strangers” especially showcases the newfound dynamics, with the whisper-quiet intro building to a massive room-filling crescendo.

A big part of the record is definitely Tim [Rice-Oxley] getting that classic piano sound with his CP-70, but the genius is in how he created these final layers of sound. Though it mostly feels like one thing in stereo, there are actually 17 different keyboard parts in my session for “Somewhere Only We Know.”

There are single notes on octaves in particular places, or these synth parts that are synchronized to the piano really well–so you get a sort of fluid drift-like quality to the sound, with the chords bleeding on top of each other. Then there are these rhythmic sequencer parts tucked in there, which help fill in the gaps and glue everything together.

In addition to doing the Atmos mix, I also helped with the remastering of the original stereo version and we dialed back a lot of [the brickwall limiting]. I wouldn’t convince anyone to go with no compression or limiting–I think the band understood that it added something cool to their sound. It gives a sort of relentless excitement to the louder tracks, but there’s definitely a few dBs more breathing room in the remaster–and even more so in the Atmos mix.

David Kosten, May 2024

"Sunshine" is definitely a standout song from an immersive perspective, featuring the harmony vocals coming from directly behind and synthesizer moving between the side speakers. “Bedshaped” is also a highlight, with the reverse vocal effects towards the end emanating mostly from the rear heights and keyboards floating overhead.

For those who haven't yet made the leap to Dolby Atmos and still inhabit the world of traditional discrete six-channel surround sound, fear not as the Blu-Ray disc also contains an exclusive DTS-HD 5.1 audio option derived from the Atmos mix. Though the soundstage feels a bit smaller without the rear surround and height array contributing, all of Kosten's mixing decisions seem to remain intact–I didn't notice any balance oddities or missing/veiled instruments in relation to the full 7.1.4 experience.

Overall, though not the last word in audio pyrotechnics, the Atmos mix of Hopes and Fears gently unfolds around the listener in a respectful manner–maintaining the integrity and familiarity of the original stereo release, while also cleverly revealing newfound detail to the listener. For fans of Keane and immersive audio, this Blu-Ray release isn’t one to miss!

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About the Author
Jonathan is an audio engineering enthusiast from New York with a passion for immersive audio, having amassed a formidable collection of multichannel optical discs and quadraphonic vinyl. He earned his undergraduate degree in Television-Radio from Ithaca College and Master's degree in Audio Technology from American University.