So a week ago Mylo Xyloto dropped, heralded first by "Every teardrop is a waterfall" and "Paradise" as the lead-off singles. So where has the band whose quiet, unassuming "Yellow" took over the world a decade ago, gone today?
"Viva La Vida" saw the "Enoxification" of the traditional Coldplay sound - more atmospherics, choral sounds, strings, all sorts of embellishments added on - but never overwhelming, always enhancing. This time around, the embellishments are still here, but lean more heavily on synth sounds and programmed beats - sometimes to the band's advantage, sometimes not.
The disc begins with the title track intro, all twinkling xylophone and chimes, kicking into the frenzied "Hurts Like Heaven" - perhaps one of the bounciest tracks Coldplay has ever recorded, and a sure sign of good tunes to come.
Starting with the singles - "Every teardrop is a waterfall" sounds like a great song U2 never sang - it has a classic layered-song flow - lilting keyboard lines that pull the listener in, soon complemented by spiraling guitar licks and drum beats that pull everything together. And for whatever the song title may make one think, it's a very upbeat, positive song. The 2nd single "Paradise" is as dreamy a ballad as Coldplay has ever written - seemingly tailor-made for lighter-waving at concerts, yet never sounding calculated or hackneyed - just pretty, catchy, and downright gorgeous.
Early buzz has many a reviewer both amateur and otherwise pointing "Charlie Brown" as one of the best tracks - it is a solid song cut from the same cloth as the rest of the disc - but not necessarily the best. "Us Against The World" strips things down to a simple vocal and acoustics after a short intro - a bit refreshing after the layered soundscapes of the first 4 tracks. Nothing wrong with layers, mind you - just nice to have a simpler vibe running through the tunes. "Major Minus" continues this album's loose-threaded story of lovers in thrall of the music, rising against....something....the band leaves the answer to the question "Rising above...what exactly?" up to the listener - and there's nothing wrong with that.
Then comes the hard left turn - "Princess of China" - the most techno-heavy track on the record which, clunky metaphors aside...works quite well for what it is, and Rihanna sounds just fine alongside Chris Martin - a surprise considering the sort of music she is most often known for. From there the last few tracks tend to stumble a bit - "Up In Flames" is a synth-coldplay-hop oriented track that never seems to quite get going, and seems lacking a memorable hook - "Dont Let It Break Your Heart" is classic soaring Coldplay, but gets a bit too cluttered for its own good. The reflective closer "Up With The Birds" turns things around and wraps up the affair nicely.
Overall, this continues the evolution begun on "Viva La Vida" - Coldplay is still there, just buried deeper underneath all the "Enoxification" as they call it. A progression that does make one hope for more music - as long as they don't get lost in the swirl of sound along the way.