October 26, 2011

Test Spins: Coldplay, Mylo Xyloto

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Those wild and quirky Brits have done it again. Didn’t think Coldplay could get any better than the 2008 smash album Viva la Vida? Prepare yourself for the intergalactic beat-fest that is Mylo Xyloto. This alternative rock group has created an infectious experience that will get the most sluggish foot tapping.

With a name like Mylo Xyloto and a trippy, gorgeous album cover, one might expect for this to be a whole new sound for Coldplay. In some ways, it is: this album is a constant barrage of uplifting, infectious beats to create a sound far more danceable than anything they have done in the past. Also, a utilization of atypical synthesizer noises and instruments create a sound that is otherworldly and futuristic. The sounds are steely, metallic and staccato, which gives the songs an exciting vibe. Overall, the effect is uplifting and a little poppier than their past albums.

However, a frequent critique of Coldplay is that all of their music sounds the same. Though this album is adaptive, there is a clear similarity to their old sound. For example, they occasionally lapse into an unpleasantly droning sound. Some of their melodies even resemble the sound of “Viva la Vida,” which is disappointing. They also repeat the practice of using lines and phrases multiple times (“Every teardrop is a waterfall” appears twice). This continuity of their style is not necessarily a bad thing — the album sounds absolutely incredible, despite its repetition.

The opening musical intro, “Mylo Xyloto,” is a gorgeously serene yet upbeat prelude (almost like a more low key “Life in Technicolor”) into “Hurts Like Heaven.” “Hurts Like Heaven,” the first full song on the album, is an explosive blitz of rhythm and melody. Coldplay has attempted a much faster tempo in this song and the result is a catchy and cool anthem that opens the album on an extraordinarily high note.

Following “Hurts Like Heaven” is one of the singles on the album, “Paradise.” “Paradise” is a metallic ballad that ranges from sounding like techno to easy listening to something in between. The eclectic cacophony, however, works tremendously. The song is also the best on the album lyrically, along with a few other poetic gems. “Paradise” also has a cool, whimsical video that is great even by Coldplay standards. Known for creative videos (“Life in Technicolor II” depicted the band as puppets rocking a concert and “Strawberry Swing” is an epic drawn almost entirely in chalk), Coldplay’s latest involves, and you’re reading this right, Chris Martin in an elephant suit riding a unicycle in Africa. In case you’re wondering, the crooner makes an adorable elephant.

The other single, “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall,” is a quintessential Coldplay smash single. The beat of the kick drum is outrageously infectious and the recurring guitar riff is a unique aspect of the song that makes it truly special. The effect is so uplifting that it is impossible not to dance, fist-pump, bounce or move along in some way. This seriously fun song also has some interesting lyrical phrases, my favorite being “I’d rather be a comma than a full stop.” Coldplay’s lyrics can sometimes be structurally weak, so it’s a relief to see them not mess up such a good song with eye roll-provoking lyrics.

“Charlie Brown” is another great track. Chris Martin’s buttery vocals are especially showcased, and the melodies and instrumentals are smooth and mellow. A steely guitar sound is a favorite component throughout the album, and in this song the sound works indelibly. “Major Minus” uses similar strategies to create a bouncy, fun track. However, this track is the first notable moment in the album where the sound gets minor and they start to drone. Despite this, the twang of the steel strings is very appealing.

“Princess of China” is a song that may become the most popular of the album. This is not only because of it’s amazing beat and wild instrumentals, but because it features superstar Rihanna. Chris Martin and Rihanna harmonizing together is quite possibly one of the most delicious sounds on this album. The nature of the song’s celebrity, great beat and fantastic hook make it versatile. Expect to hear it on the dance floor, on the radio, blaring from headphones and in your head in the near future.

One area in which Mylo Xyloto has proved disappointing is in its ballads. Though “Us Against the World” is pretty, it lacks the power of past Coldplay ballads (Think “Yellow,” “The Scientist,” “A Message” and “Swallowed in the Sea”). Even worse, slower jams “UFO” and “Up in Flames” have indistinctive melodies and come off as pretty mediocre.

Though it falls short with its ballads, the album has one fantastic quality that makes it great: its cohesiveness. Using transitional instrumental parts like “Mylo Xyloto”, “M.M.I.X.” and “A Hopeful Transmission,” the album achieves a unified quality by having each song flow into the next. In a world where people can “shuffle” at the touch of a screen, it’s refreshing to see an album that begs to be listened to in the right order and sounds the best when it is.

Mylo Xyloto sounds like an infectious trip through space. It is different enough to show growth in Coldplay’s sound but is also a much-needed dose of their classic style. Perfect for working out, chilling out or going all out, this album is a perfect addition to anybody’s music collection. Let me know what you think; I’ll be staring at my computer screen waiting for their tour schedule to drop.

Original Author: Sarah Finegold