After nearly three-and-a-half years of waiting and many release date rumors that raised false hopes, Coldplay’s fifth studio album, “Mylo Xyloto,” was finally released on Monday, Oct. 24. After selling 122,000 copies in three days, this album has already topped the charts as the fastest-selling album of the year.
To kick off “Mylo Xyloto,” the band released “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” as a single over the summer. The title alone — which waxes poetic in the worst way possible — worried me. And after listening to the song itself, with its forgettable melody, I didn’t feel much better. It just gave this air that Coldplay had passed their peak and were now trying too hard to be hip and update their sound in a Top 40 kind of way. The only redeeming quality of the song seemed to be lead guitarist Guy Berryman’s standout riffs, reminiscent of those from “Violet Hill” on their previous album, “Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends.”
It was in this pessimistic mindset that I awaited “Mylo Xyloto,” thinking the band was rapidly approaching its demise. I was anything but right, and I’m glad to report that. Take a look at any song on the album other than “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall,” and you will find that Coldplay is certainly alive and well.
While many have cited “Mylo Xyolo” as a departure album, I would undoubtedly award that title to “Viva la Vida.” I found their new album to be more of an amalgamative album. It presents itself as an auditory ode to all the sounds and styles they’ve developed over their 15-year run as an enduring
band while still presenting a handful of very strong sparkles of originality. This kind of album is actually really interesting to listen to as a long-time fan. It’s like looking at a photo album of songs — remembering where the band has been at their best moments, and looking forward to where they’re going now.
Parts of the album are built quite similarly to “Viva la Vida,” relying on seamless transitions between songs to create an overall story that the album aims to tell. This holds true between the title track and “Hurts Like Heaven,” between “M.M.I.X” and “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” and between “A Hopeful Transition” and “Don’t Let It Break Your Heart.”
On the other hand, songs like “U.F.O.” and “Up With the Birds” pull from much earlier themes on their first album, “Parachutes.” This is evident in the more acoustic aspect of the sound, as well as lead singer Chris Martin’s yearning voice, instead of the bolder attitude his vocals found on “Viva la Vida.” Apparently, it was songs like these that almost convinced the group to produce a solely acoustic studio album, but when the infectiously rambunctious song “Paradise” came along they had the intuition to scrap the acoustic idea and go for, in their words, a more “schizophrenic” album — meant in the best way possible.
“Paradise” is definitely one of the most well-done songs on the album, as Coldplay clearly demonstrates their ability to produce a harder, more direct sound. This, along with “Major Minus,” “Charlie Brown,” and “Princess of China” — which features Rihanna — are the newbies on this album. These songs pull slightly from previous styles that the band has explored, but depend more heavily on — for them —fresh sounds that add a more raw demeanor to these tracks. Coldplay is now employing the use of synthesizers and other digital noises in their songs, including a very intriguing alien-like warble at the beginning of “Charlie Brown.”
The only aspect of the album that seemed misaligned to me was some of the lyrics. Martin obviously isn’t as young as he was when Coldplay started out, so it is no longer fitting to hear him singing about things like youth rebellion. For example, in “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” Martin sings “I turn the music up, I got my records on / From underneath the rubble, sing a rebel song,” and in “Charlie Brown” he sings, “I stole a key / Took a car downtown where the lost boys meet.” This isn’t to say I really wish he were singing about parenthood or paying taxes, but it just seems unnatural to imagine 34-year-old Martin rising up against “the man” or stealing a car.
That said, I’ve only been listening to this album in its entirety for four days, but it already sounds comfortable to me, which holds true to the fact that Coldplay is great at making natural transitions between albums. It’s a testament to the group’s talent that they’re able to stay connected to their musical roots, while also unapologetically leaving themselves room to continue growing, and doing so in a way that invites fans to grow with them.
Sklar is a member of the class of 2014.