Friday, November 22, 2019

Review: Everyday Life • Coldplay

For many listeners, music transcends the ordinary. Even if for minutes at a time, it lifts us away from the mundane routines or the crushing headlines. It provides us new perspective, whether raw and deeply personal or vivid and fictitious. But English alternative outfit Coldplay, a band that has beamed their music through many prisms and long ago killed any sense of expectations for their records, has now decided to celebrate humanity and its commonalities, even when the worldwide social climate has boiled down to its ugliest condition.

Everyday Life, a double-sided concept record, snaps Coldplay back into form at the end of a decade filled with fluid shifts for the band. As we become farther separated from the record’s release and the number of Coldplay apologists continues to grow by a fair amount, it has become a more acceptable statement to declare that Mylo Xyloto’s rich electronic rock was a risk worth taking. But after diminishing return on investments in subsequent releases, it is certainly refreshing to watch Coldplay pack up a few lessons learned and come back home on this record.

As the band extracts the cornerstones from many genres and constructs songs with the reclaimed pieces, Everyday Life borrows from many and commits to none. Although the results are largely homogenized, the band is careful to pay tasteful homage to their influences' roots rather than appropriate them, and in the process, the record becomes Coldplay’s first to boast an ecosystem of predominantly organic instrumentation since 2006. The familiar warm pop-rock sound – perhaps not too far off from something heard on Ghost Stories – that takes hold of "Church" is accented with Arabic vocalization; "Trouble in Town" confronts police brutality on its face over a lonely beat, but guitars and pianos swell into the mix at its midpoint to produce a full-bodied stadium filler; and in perhaps one of this record's only true fumbles, the band gives whiny doo-wop a try on "Cry Cry Cry." 

As the man who surely had a hand in word-smithing his own divorce announcement into the term "conscious uncoupling," Chris Martin isn’t particularly known for his reactions to conflict: "We share the same view," he asserts repeatedly on "Arabesque" before hefty brass rips over a Western guitar lick. Even when he returns to his post as a balladeer, he provides unvarnished commentary on a poor father-child relationship ("Daddy") and a surface-level (though still touching) thesis on the emotional spectrum on the title track, relying on his tenor falsetto to carry the emotional appeal. However, as a band with an impressively large and varied audience, Coldplay doesn't seem entirely out of place in asserting themselves as kumbaya troubadours.

Folks who find it trendy to consider Coldplay to be popular music’s lowest common denominator always have yelled the loudest online, but after maintaining a relatively steady level of mainstream fame for nearly two decades, the band clearly knows how to produce resonating content. Even if the record is bulked up with interludes, the textured sounds and fragile melodies of Everyday Life equate to the most inspired Coldplay record in recent history. And most often focusing on what unites and ignites us rather than what pulls us toward opposite poles of the sociopolitical spectrum, the band sends indiscriminate waves of sadness, wonder, denial, and hope throughout the record. Perhaps in this case, it's art that imitates life.

Everyday Life is available now under Parlophone Records.

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