It's been three grueling years since Coldplay's Viva La Vida was released, but Coldplay has certainly not lost its punch. Mylo Xyloto (pronounced MY-loe ZY-letoe) is a dance-trance alien thrust into our iTunes libraries. Certainly a new sound from Coldplay, Mylo Xyloto manages to simultaneously draw in a new crowd and not alienate Coldplay's loyal fans. As a band formed in 1996, Coldplay was perhaps setting itself up for failure with Mylo Xyloto. How could a band that has been together for 15 years release relevant, catchy, and inspirational music after tapping into its creative pool for over a decade? Also, with a three-year albumless vacuum under its belt, Coldplay had starving fans impatiently waiting for new music. By keeping some songs similar to those of previous albums (i.e. Mylo Xyloto's "Hurts Like Heaven" and "Glass of Water" from Prospekt's March), Coldplay keeps its stronghold over fans that miss the albums of yesteryear. However, the best things in life are ripened with age, and Coldplay's fifth studio album is testament to that. From masterfully cutting musical interludes from club-bangers and making them into their own tracks to toying with no-gap playback (to have songs feed directly into one another seamlessly), Coldplay has risen to the challenge of surpassing your previous album's success.
Coldplay, perhaps foolishly, released its singles to not include some of Mylo Xyloto's best songs, like "Charlie Brown." "Charlie Brown" is a rebellious song with a soaring, far-out ambient sound, promising that "we'll be glowing in the dark" after running away from a mystery unknown. "Charlie Brown" is but one example of Coldplay's migration from being piano-heavy to guitar-focused in its music. Brian Eno's famous knack for producing ambient sound comes into play for "Charlie Brown," whose introduction blends two distinct music tracks together perfectly. Chris Martin's vocals separate bouts of euphoric beats and lyrical genius. The guitar wails are more resonating and solos more elaborate and emphasized. During the Mylo Xyloto tour that will surely be planned, "Charlie Brown" will absolutely be a song that has every audience member jumping up and down with his or her hands flailing wildly overhead. Previously underrated Jonny Buckland and Guy Berryman will, through their guitar and bass instrumentals throughout Mylo Xyloto, receive the glory that they have deserved for years.
The composition of "Us Against the World" screams of Brian Eno's involvement in producing this album. The twinkling trance intro morphs into an acoustic guitar campfire song from Chris Martin with an unknown variable that oozes Irish influence. The second released song in Coldplay's catalogue to feature the vocals of percussionist Will Champion, "Us Against the World" weaves in and out of psychedelic-chill track and Irish folk song of misunderstood love. But five tracks away is the Coldplay-Rihanna collaborative monster, "Princess of China." I predict that this track will be rereleased as a single to gain airplay. It is simply too good. I dare you to listen to "Princess of China" and not tap your feet to the almost overwhelming beat. When Coldplay released Mylo Xyloto's track list and said there would be a track featuring Rihanna, I was so excited. After Prospekt's March's "Lost+" with Jay-Z in 2008, Coldplay proved to us that it could seamlessly write music to accommodate hip-hop artists. Rihanna's wailing during the hook and between choruses compliment her own music style while also channeling Chris Martin's famous calls in "Viva La Vida." The best way to describe the composition behind "Princess of China" is to compare it to an old-school Zelda Gameboy game's sound effects -- but in the best way. The song is epic, Asia-influenced, and it exemplifies the adventurous vibe that comes from an alternative-hip-hop combination. The novel concept behind "Princess of China" is its ability to connect Rihanna and Chris Martin's vocals together. In this sense, the track is a true collaboration between two artists. "Don't Let It Break Your Heart" sounds like an epic U2 song that caters to entire football stadiums full of people. Upbeat and fast-paced, "Don't Let It Break Your Heart" is the perfect soundtrack for a car ride in New York City at night -- full of life and prospect. The song is an optimistic dream in song form.
How can one define the best album of the year? It certainly is not easy. Martin, Buckland, Berryman, and Champion have managed to harness the remaining positive energy in the world and burn it onto CDs. The great motivator? Maybe it was doing what music does best: letting go of reservations and making art. According to Chris Martin, the album is "Quite colorful. I don't know if they're good colors or bad colors, but they're definitely different colors in places." Mylo Xyloto, simply put, does not disappoint in the least.