Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Album Review: Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto

Coldplay's latest album Mylo Xyloto came out on October 24, to the relief of many fans (including myself) who couldn't stand another day of waiting. There have been both good and bad reviews of the album, and I've been meaning to throw my two cents in for awhile, but haven't had the time. However, I finally forced myself to sit down and finish my review (during NaNoWriMo season, no less), so here it is.

So...the thing that bothered me about the new album when it first came out wasn't that it sounded different than anything I was used to. It wasn't that there was a mix-matched array of upbeat songs with complex riffs, haunting songs with beautiful instrumentals, distorted electric-guitar songs and songs that included almost nothing except piano chords and vocals. It wasn't that there was also a duet with Rihanna mixed into this.

It was that it worked. It worked really, really, well. Every song fits seamlessly with the rest, and as a whole album, it's probably one of Coldplay's best, if not the best. In terms of continuity, it's definitely giving Viva La Vida/Death and All His Friends a run for its money. Needless to say, I am in the group of Coldplay fans who adore Mylo Xyloto, and have to fight my exasperation with those who don't. (To be fair, it did take me a few listens for some of the songs to grow on me, though I loved others instantly.)

Before I get into song-by-song-reviews, I'd also just like to point out that it's the only Coldplay album I almost immediately bought the complete version of. That just proves how well all the songs function together.

1. Mylo Xyloto
The title track is an awesome instrumental and a perfect introduction to Hurts Like Heaven. I like how this song starts off softly and gradually builds, with more sounds added as it goes on. It's a great opener for the album.

2. Hurts Like Heaven
I read somewhere that the new album was inspired by graffiti, and it's clearer on Hurts Like Heaven than on any other song. I love the chorus, the verses, basically all of the lyrics, and from what I've managed to decipher of the meaning, I like that too. A critic (I'm paraphrasing here) complained that it seemed as if Coldplay was writing about a dystopia where people rebel by spray-painting, but that's what I like about this song. It definitely has a non-conformist/unique attitude to it, but it's not angry.

3. Paradise
Awesome song. Just amazing. It's both traditional Coldplay and incredibly unique - a sort of Clocks meets Violet Hill meets something else entirely. I love the violins at the beginning. The lyrics are haunting and heartbreakingly beautiful. The concept is definitely something I can relate to, and I have a feeling this is going to be one of those Coldplay songs that's going to stick around for awhile.

4. Charlie Brown
iTunes described this song as a "Coldplay classic in the making", and they hit the nail right on the head. I think every Coldplay album has one song that is just so moving and breathtaking that it's impossible to describe, one that fully encompasses the whole theme of the album. For Mylo Xyloto, that song is Charlie Brown. From the first time I heard the instrumental, I knew this was going to be something spectacular, and it only got better with every line of the unforgettable lyrics. It's such an inspiring, amazing song, and I can't stop listening to it.

5. Us Against the World
The beginning of this song is really nice, with a softer acoustic sound. It's probably one of the songs on the album that sounds the most like earlier Coldplay songs, without being repetitive. It reminds me of songs on Parachute like Sparks or Don't Panic or Swallowed in the Sea on X&Y. I love the lyrics, too - very poetic.

6. M.M.I.X.
I don't have a lot to say about this song because I haven't spent a lot of time listening to it. It works well as a transition to Every Teardrop is a Waterfall, but it's not one of my favorite introductions on the album. It's short, like the other two, but doesn't really make the most of that time like they do.

7. Every Teardrop is a Waterfall
I'll admit that when it first came out I was a little skeptical - it sounded a lot more like U2 than the Coldplay I was used to - but it's definitely grown on me. The guitar riffs are phenomenal. I would love to be able to play them. The lyrics are catchy but still really meaningful; in fact, the entire song is like that. It has great fast-paced music and is one of the few Coldplay songs I actually want to dance to, but its meaning is miles above some of the other music that's out there. It was a great first single for the album.

8. Major Minus
Okay, I'll be honest: it's not my favorite song on the album. I do sort of like the guitar intro, but the opening lyrics, which repeat in some form or another throughout most of the song, seem kind of simple. The same thing could apply to the meaning - I don't mind it, but it doesn't seem as deep as their songs usually are. None of that bothers me that much, though. The main thing I like about the song is a bit farther in, at "I hear them climbing the stairs..." etc. I like the lyrics there, just not the way they're sung. The song isn't bad - after all, it's Coldplay - and there are several parts of the lyrics I really like, such as "but they don't believe a word, it's just us against the world" (which carries the theme from an earlier song) and "Hear the crocodiles ticking round the world" (which, if I'm not mistaken, is a Peter Pan reference.) It's one of those songs that will probably grow on me, but it's not one of the strongest songs on the album.

9. U.F.O.
I really like the guitar on this song - it's so soft and pretty. The sound is nicely layered without being too busy, and the instrumentals and vocals perfectly compliment each other. It's short and sweet, but definitely not too simple - it has just the right amount of everything, right up through the fantastic ending.

10. Princess of China
This was the song I was looking forward to hearing most, because the title was so intriguing; it was the one I was the most skeptical about once I found out it was a duet with Rihanna; and it's the song I've been the most surprised be. I'm truly shocked by how well it worked. The "oohs" are really strong on this song, and the parts Rihanna and Chris Martin sing blend together really nicely, even if I do feel like her voice overpowers his in one or two places. Overall, it's a fantastic collaboration between two awesome artists.

11. Up In Flames
At first I was sort of indifferent to this song - it didn't stand out to me at first. But I think this is one of those Coldplay songs you don't appreciate until you really listen to the lyrics. They remind me of songs like Sparks or The Scientist in their tone, and they're so heartfelt. You can tell he means every word he's singing. And even though it doesn't have the intense, sweeping sounds of some of their other songs, that sort of thing would be out of place here anyway. After a few listens, I've decided this song is definitely a keeper.

12. A Hopeful Transmission
Similar in sound to Mylo Xyloto, and really helps with the continuity of the album. It's also a wonderful transition between the softer Up In Flames and the more upbeat Don't Let it Break Your Heart. The title really fits, too, since it feels like it's getting more hopeful as it continues. Overall, it's a great song in the perfect place on the album.

13. Don't Let if Break Your Heart
I love, love, love, love, this song. It's right up there with Hurts Like Heaven on my list of personal favorites on this album. I love the synthesizer/whatever instrument is making those awesome sounds in the background. I love the lyrics. I love the message. There's not a whole lot to say about this song, other than that I love everything about it.

14. Up With The Birds
I really like the way this song starts off - it almost sounds like a hymn. It's also very dynamic, and the lyrics read like a poem. It swells a little, then gets quiet, and becomes yet another beautiful Coldplay song with perfectly matched instrumentals and lyrics. Although it's not the most powerful song on the album, I think it was definitely a sweet ending - it leaves me incredibly satisfied with what I just heard while at the same time wanting more.

So to conclude, while this album is different from their previous ones, if you really think about it, all of Coldplay's albums have something unique about them. If all the albums sounded the same, people would be complaining about that - and believe me, they have, even about this album. I don't think it's repetitive or too out there. I think it's Coldplay trying something new, and their success just about blows me away.


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