Showing posts with label Coldplay. Show all posts

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.

Friday, December 11, 2015

50 Favorite Pop Songs of 2015 (Part Two)

40. "Don't Be So Hard on Yourself" by Jess Glynne

All in one sitting, Jess Glynne's debut album gets a bit repetitive. In four minute increments, though, she can create bursts of euphoria. Case in point: "Don't Be So Hard on Yourself." It's a whirlwind of disco and europop production with unbreakable, soul-tinged vocals.

39. "Colors" by Halsey

The new "in" trend is to cyberbully Halsey, one of the most notable breakthrough stars of the year. But let's not let that take away from the quality of her music. "Colors" has been a fan favorite for a while, and for good reason. Perhaps the bridge's cheesy little poem take itself a bit too seriously, but the immersive chorus and pretty, artsy language makes up for that.

38. "Stressed Out" by Twenty One Pilots

Twenty One Pilots managed to capture the spirit of nostalgia and the struggle of growing old in just one song. Trip-hop fused alt-pop is in the duo's wheelhouse, and this song hits the nail right on the head; it succeeds with a good hook, conversational lyrics, and #relatable moments.

37. "Better" by Banks

The fragile upper register, the spooky lower register, the moans, the crackles, the squeals, the incredible, vibrato-rich runs... Everything Banks can do with her voice is breathtaking. While last year's Goddess was incredible in nearly every way and was constructed on murky synthpop and vocal samples, it looks like her second studio album will place even more emphasis on that voice in its natural state. "Better" allows it to shine at the forefront before the song builds into a short-lived climax.

36. "Money All Around" by Holychild

Ironic statements on society are nothing new in music, but Holychild makes them well. Creating their own realm of "brat pop," the duo immerses their ironic lyrics in tidal waves of heavy synthesizers and dance-floor beats -- and "Money All Around" may just be their crowning jewel.

35. "Hymn for the Weekend" by Coldplay
*stream is pitched due to copyright

Chris Martin plus Beyoncé? We must be in heaven. "Hymn for the Weekend" is a deep forest of fun, with Martin and Yoncé's vocals blending like coffee and cream as they sing, "I'm feeling drunk and high / So high, so high / Then we shoot across the sky," over the beat-laden, horn-accented track. 

34. "Bitch Better Have My Money" by Rihanna

I don't care. This thing is a banger, ratchetness and all. It makes more sense in context of the music video, but even without the knowledge of the accountant that bankrupted Rihanna, it's still a badass tune; the whole heavy trap track is sing-shouted and fueled on aggression. It's what we expected from Rihanna -- and it's wanted from Rihanna after that one night stand with an acoustic guitar on "FourFiveSeconds" early this year.

33. "Pity Party" by Melanie Martinez

What is the best way to make your "demented child" schtick seem authentic? Put your own spin on the most notable musical temper tantrum in existence. Melanie Martinez translates elements of Leslie Gore's "It's My Party" into a deep trip-pop meltdown and has the voice to execute the persona perfectly.

32. "Heaven" by Troye Sivan feat. Betty Who

Honestly, this one may be especially important to me as a member of the LGBT+, but that's alright. Troye Sivan's butter-smooth voice glides through the song's lyrics, which zero in on the conflict of interest between living openly as a gay man and subscribing to a religion that could be manipulated to condemn him to eternal damnation. And course, the addition of Betty Who definitely doesn't hurt, either.

31. “WTF (Where They From)” by Missy Elliott feat. Pharrell Williams

In the ten years that Missy Elliott has been gone, plenty of girls have come to fill her shoes -- but their size 7 feet just can't completely fill out Missy's size 12 shoes. At age 44, Elliott is back to show that she hasn't lost her touch with the Pharrell-assisted "WTF (Where They From)." She's still distinctive, she's still on top of the game, and she's still nothing but 100% Missy.

Monday, November 30, 2015

A Head Full of Dreams | Coldplay

Chris Martin's storm has ended in a magnificent rainbow.

Last year's Ghost Stories was Coldplay's proclamation of emotions in the aftermath of Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow's infamous conscious uncoupling, which, we have learned, means that they're technically divorced but still spend a fair amount of time together for the sake of their two children. The nine-track set was stained with sorrow yet was sprinkled with the hope of better days to come, paving the way for the band's seventh (and possibly final) release, A Head Full of Dreams.

Within the past few album cycles, Coldplay has become a band that refuses to fit perfectly in its listener-assigned alternative rock mold, making that fact most obvious when the quartet's fifth album, Mylo Xyloto, took the form of a gritty, electroindustrial concept album. Martin's voice remains the band's only constant factor; everything else works around him. This new record, just like the last few, further explores just how far a catch-all genre like alternative rock can be bent before it breaks. Just how far, you ask? Judging by the scene set by the opening title track, which displays an alt-rock core adorned with technicolor pop sensibility, pretty damn far.

This record most closely parallels the band's fifth release in the sense that it places the most emphasis on electronic-assisted production -- the one form of Coldplay that divides fans and critics alike. "X Marks the Spot," an unlisted track that is tacked onto the playtime of "Army of One," is Coldplay's best attempt at the spacey synthpop that the kids (Troye Sivan, Halsey) are making nowadays -- of course, with solid results. "Birds" (not to be confused with "Up with the Birds") charges along with a double-time beat that doesn't rest until the song awkwardly cuts off with Martin's muted mutter of "cool." Even lead single "Adventure of a Lifetime" is an energetic little number led by a reverberated guitar riff, vocal samples, and retro disco vibes; it may just be Coldplay at its most carefree moment.

Although only one artist, Swedish pop newcomer Tove Lo, is credited for her feature on the album, this album is the band's most collaborative effort, with unaccredited vocals coming from Paltrow (again, that conscious uncoupling thing is really lax), Beyoncé (!!!), and President Barack Obama (pulling out all of the stops here, folks). The other voices on the album take the backseat (even the POTUS, whose rendition of "Amazing Grace" is clipped to a fuzzy, nearly unrecognizable snippet at the end of the "Kaleidoscope" interlude) so Martin can continue basking in the spotlight, but they each serve a pivotal purpose in adding flairs to this album that gives it the advantage of unexpected variety over the band's others.

Surprisingly, Lo's voice, thrown into its light upper register and somewhat unrecognizable from its state on her own Queen of the Clouds, plays back-up on the nostalgia-soaked "Fun." Arguably, Yoncé's feature on "Hymn for the Weekend" is more commanding -- and her feature isn't the only thing that makes it the strongest track on the album. The anthem's title is fitting, given that the duo sings, "I'm feeling drunk and high / So high, so high / Then we shoot across the sky," over the beat-laden, horn-accented track. And as for Paltrow, her vocals barely emerge to audible levels behind her ex-husband's "Everglow," a bittersweet wave goodbye to their relationship that acknowledges a lasting impression that each had on the other.

If this album is, in fact, Coldplay's final sendoff, the band's story concludes with a "happily ever after" and a promise that everything is going to be okay, even if things are weird right now and you're singing songs about your ex-wife... with your ex-wife. It infuses a certain level of bliss but doesn't lose the personal touch of its creators, even with the slew of extra voices that wiggle their ways onto tracks and the production responsibilities that are credited to unlikely candidates: Norwegian duo Stargate (the production duo's name is attached to Ne-Yo, Selena Gomez, Rihanna, Beyoncé, and Jennifer Lopez). The record doesn't contain anything mind-blowing, but that wasn't necessarily a requirement to begin with; it needed to prove that Coldplay is still a chameleonic little band that is alive and kicking nearly 20 years after its formation -- and it fulfilled its purpose with ease.

A Head Full of Dreams will be available on December 4, 2015 under Parlophone Records.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Singles Summary: November 2015

Banks // "Better"
TBA, Harvest

Coldplay // "Adventure of a Lifetime"
Head Full of Dreams, Parlophone

Carly Rae Jepsen // "Last Christmas"
N/A, Interscope

Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello // "I Know What You Did Last Summer"
Handwritten: Revisited, Island

Sia // "Bird Set Free" & "One Million Bullets"
This is Acting, RCA
Bird Set Free: ★★★★☆ // One Million Bullets: ★★★★☆

Troye Sivan // "Youth"
Blue Neighbourhood, Capitol

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Ghost Stories | Coldplay


With hits like "Viva la Vida" and "Clocks" behind them, alternative rock band Coldplay is always expected to go bigger and better on their next releases. Since it would be a challenge to go any louder or get any more produced than their last album, they decided to cut back their sound on their sixth studio album, Ghost Stories. This album trips back to the basics, minus a song or two.

Coldplay's last attempt was Mylo Xyloto, an experimental album with an unpronounceable name. The album was gritty, loud, and heavy in its electronic influences. On Ghost Stories, Coldplay seems to try to pull back to their alternative rock influences while also lightly implementing what they learned on Mylo Xyloto.

Ghost Stories slowly draws open with a relaxed "Always in My Head," which was surprisingly co-written by the band with electronic musician Madeon. Vocals from Chris Martin are drawn to a minimum, so most of the song relies on its easy, ambient instrumental and few light samples of vocals from none other than Apple, Martin's son, who has a nice falsetto but an unfortunate name. 

"Magic," the album's official lead single, carries a simple drumbeat and piano chord instrumental. The vocals could be tweaked in this track, but then again the few vocal imperfections make the song seem more personal - a theme the band seems to be going for with this album. Despite Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow's "conscious uncoupling," the song's lyrics tell the story of an optimistic couple in love: "Call it magic, call it true / I call it magic when I'm with you / And I just got broken, broken into two / Still I call it magic, when I'm next to you." Maybe this song represents that "flying to the Bahamas together and bringing the kids like it's a family vacation" portion of the "conscious uncoupling."

The bittersweet "Ink" gives way to a synthesizer and Martin still proclaiming his love for his ex-wife, but yet ready to let go. The holy falsetto of Chris Martin finally makes a fully-committed appearance in "True Love," in which he sings of his heartbreak: "I've lost you now, you let me go but one last time / Tell me you love me, if you don't then lie to me."

Coldplay really hit the nail on the head with the title of the next track, "Midnight," because the song just makes me envision a lonely drive through the dead of night. The track is perhaps one of the most experimental on the record, with Martin's vocal track being shoved through a vocoder before being layered on the track filled with overlapping synths. 

The dark, twinkling "Another's Arms" finds Martin almost muttering through the repetitive verses and wailing choruses while also leaving room twisted instrumental break during the bridge. Perhaps the slowest song from the album, "Oceans," once again features some mumbling vocals, but also showcases Martin's upper register. Personally, I feel like it's one of the least memorable tracks on the album.

Madeon isn't the only electronic musician to work on Ghost Stories: "Wake Me Up!" hit-maker Avicii got to put his hands into this album in the track "A Sky Full of Stars." While Madeon's presence is relatively hidden in "Always in My Head," Avicii gets to push in a progressive breakdown that holds down the ends of the choruses in "A Sky Full of Stars." I see it as the crowning jewel of Ghost Stories, but that may be because I'm usually drawn towards electronic music. It's a refreshing sound for Coldplay and would probably give the band the moderate radio hit they need if released as a single.

Ghost Stories draws to end with the piano-fueled ballad "O," which is another song that is semi-reliant on Martin's upper register. After all is said and done, the album wraps up at just over forty minutes of new music. Although I don't think Ghost Stories compares to my favorite Coldplay album (Viva la Vida and Death and All of His Friends), it's a solid attempt. Ghost Stories is a nice addition to Coldplay's discography and actually seems to tell the story of the decaying marriage between Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow. By no means is this an Adele-style "we could have had it all but you broke my heart so now I'm going to an entire album about you," but instead it leaves behind bittersweet taste of broken love that was thought to be eternal.

Ghost Stories is out on Tuesday, May 19, under Atlantic Records in the United States. An exclusive deluxe edition can be found at Target department stores.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Midnight | Coldplay


Alternative band Coldplay has an extensive discography under their belt and decided they could follow the footsteps of Beyoncé by dropping a new single with absolutely no forewarning.

"Midnight" has not been announced to be the lead single from any new projects, which could mean it was simply an extra track for fans to gush over, but it does show some evolution of the sounds of Mylo Xyloto and Viva La Vida or Death and All of His Friends

The song doesn't have many lyrics, but nearly none of them can be distinguished as real words; lead singer Chris Martin seems to slur his syllables together throughout the song. However, underneath the YouTube video are the song's lyrics spelled out in black and white: "Millions of miles from home / In the swirling swimming on / When I'm rolling with the thunder / But bleed from thorns / Leave a light a light on."

Martin's voice has also been shoved through a vocoder to create a cool paralleling robotic vocal line as he sings. It's definitely something different in their discography and not a song to be ignored: "Midnight" could signify a new era for Coldplay and I'm excited to see what they have in store.

© Aural Fixation
Maira Gall