Coldplay, Mylo Xyloto
Official Release Date: October 24
Hunker down, rock-opera enthusiasts and Coldplay adversaries (or vice versa): Mylo Xyloto, the much-discussed concept album from Chris Martin and friends, has hit the Internet. If you have not been following the breathless lead-up to this fifth album, allow us to recap: It's a "romance in an oppressive environment," according to Martin; as with 2008's Viva La Vida, Brian Eno had a hand in its production; and it was inspired, in part, by xylophone shoes. So yes, it will probably be argued about, a lot.
The first and most pressing question upon a full-listen: How "concept-y" is this concept album? In plot, at least, not very. This will come as a disappointment to some (say, anyone who wanted to hear Chris Martin sing about building a treehouse in the sky), but it's a wise bit of restraint in an album that is otherwise typically, totally over-the-top. All of the Coldplay trademarks are here — giant, cheery guitar riffs; string flourishes; and an "ooh" vocal in almost every single song on the album (not including the interludes). Coldplay, to its credit, has not shied away from its rap as the arena-ready rock band; "Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall," "Don't Let It Break Your Heart," and "Charlie Brown" in particular have that signature stadium sound, with pianos and guitars banging away in major keys. ("Waterfall" will surely be to the 2012 London Olympics what "Viva La Vida" was to 2008 in Beijing; Michael Phelps, start learning the difference between a comma and a full stop.) But Mylo also brings in some new electro fuzz, the occasional synthy bass, and even a creepy, filtered choir sound at one point ("Charlie Brown," which in studio form still only offers a vague connection to the cartoon character in question). And then there are the (relatively) low-key moments, like "Us Against the World," when Chris Martin lets his voice drop down back to the raspier depths of "Yellow." It's nice.