Coldplay – Mylo Xyloto

written by: October 25, 2011
Release Date: October 25th, 2011


All things considered, Coldplay has done a pretty good job at not crippling under the enormous pressure of fame and expectation after A Rush of Blood to the Head in 2002. While it didn’t throw caution to the wind like Radiohead did, the quartet’s subsequent releases stayed true to form. X&Y may have been riddled with cheesy lyrics and a lack of musical progression, but Viva la Vida saw the members turn to producer extraordinaire Brian Eno for guidance. While that album didn’t have an entirely clear direction, it did sound like Coldplay was becoming less concerned with mainstream conventions, a trend which continues on the band’s fifth LP, Mylo Xyloto.

A supposed concept album about two characters, conveniently named Mylo and Xyloto—it’s “a love story with a happy ending”—this latest release sounds like the members of Coldplay are doing whatever they want.

The sonic approach to this album stands in stark contrast with their others. It’s very bright and peppy, even occasionally borrowing from recent trends such as chillwave (perhaps inadvertently). While they still keep in mind the stadiums they will be performing at with numbers such as “Paradise,” Chris Martin and Co. seem to be appealing to the indie crowd more than ever.

This is apparent from opening song “Hurts Like Heaven,” which in many regards could have been found on the myriad summery, indie-pop albums to surface during the past year or two if it weren’t for the unmistakable voice of Martin. To that end, the use of piano and Jon Buckland’s guitar nuances (when he’s not ripping off The Edge) help maintain Coldplay’s identity as well throughout the album, piercing through the dense production. Martin implements some vocal effects and slightly off-kilter harmonies which give the track a little extra character, and things are off to a surprisingly good start.

After the aforementioned “Paradise,” “Charlie Brown” utilizes pitch-shifted vocals akin to those on Delorean’s singles from last year to great effect before Martin’s prized falsetto takes over. This dynamic anthem proves to be the best track on the album.

Unfortunately, after “Charlie Brown,” the momentum starts to give way and the bursting creativity lessens several degrees from the dull “Us Against the World” through to the end of the album.

Lead single “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” sits in the middle before a pair of mildly interesting, acoustic-based tracks. (Side note: How is it that songs titled “My Tears Are Becoming a Sea” and “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” have been on major albums released not only in the same year, but one week apart?) “Major Minus” has Radiohead circa Hail to the Thief stamped right on it, but in spite of that and because of that, its bass groove is pretty undeniable. “U.F.O.” is a short tune with some downright pretty fingerpicked guitar work and Martin’s most soulful, soft croon on the album.

A rather bizarre twist follows in “Princess of China”: Rihanna appears. To be fair, with the style shift seen on Mylo, she doesn’t sound terribly out of place, even if it is a bit of a head-scratcher. This will definitely be one of the most, if not the most, disputed choices on the album. It doesn’t sound like Coldplay is using Rihanna to make a big hit, but it’s definitely got that sort of potential. Take it or leave it.

After that, everything else seems tame. “Up With the Birds” is another unconvincing closer like “Death and All His Friends” was, and by this point, the excitement the listener may have gotten from the strong start will be greatly diminished.

The band is trying to push things forward—and they do to a certain extent—but there is little depth to dig into after a couple plays through.

In the end, Mylo Xyloto gives the haters another reason to hate and the fans a fresh set of songs to enjoy for the next few years. Coldplay is, at this point, critically immune, as most listeners will approach this with their opinions already formed. They’re never going to make an album as honest as Parachutes or as strong as Rush, but they’re taking their time and they aren’t just playing it safe—even though they definitely could.

Coldplay – Mylo Xyloto tracklist:

  1. “Mylo Xyloto”
  2. “Hurts Like Heaven”
  3. “Paradise”
  4. “Charlie Brown”
  5. “Us Against the World”
  6. “M.M.I.X.”
  7. “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall”
  8. “Major Minus”
  9. “U.F.O.”
  10. “Princess of China”
  11. “Up in Flames”
  12. “A Hopeful Transmission”
  13. “Don’t Let It Break Your Heart”
  14. “Up with the Birds”