... this album is going to have a lot of teething problems.
Firstly, as has been the way with most of Coldplay's work: The album is very much unlike their previous stuff. Don't get me wrong, the album shares many parallels with all of their previous material. However, it's different enough that fans coming here expecting a remake of [Coldplay Album Name] WILL be disappointed. Admittedly, I too had my reservations when the singles were released. But it just takes a bit of getting used to - the quality is still there, it's just a different flavour.
Secondly, the album lacks a full, out-and-out single. I'm not saying the songs are weak (far from it) - but to me, the album lacks a 'frontman' of a song. There isn't really a single song that you can use to show off to a new listener (In the way that all the previous albums had key, outstanding tracks which helped keep you listening long enough for the quality of the underrated songs to come through) Alas, there is still no contender for the global play-on-loop-50-times hit that is 'Viva la Vida'. It's a shame, because nearly all of the songs are excellent
Thirdly, as has been mentioned by others: The mixing is very heavily done and will punish high and low quality speakers alike. On the first number of listens for many songs, it feels like you're met with a solid wall of noise where the vocals sound almost muffled. As a person who's a sucker for melodies, I was fine with this after a few listens - but those are more about good lyrics might find this very off-putting (at least until they can discern what's actually being said!)
As you may have gathered then: The album needs some getting used to. It's initial feel is very bright, bold and colourful - but can also feel a bit 'brash' and 'in-your-face' at times. The good news is that it rewards patience and the overall quality of the songs are very, very high. (I can't really find any 'weak' songs on this one)
To the track listing:
1. Mylo Xyloto - A 40-second (slightly Christmassy) instrumental lead-up which perfectly introduces...
2. Hurts Like Heaven - A brilliantly Upbeat and toe-tapping intro. A tad cheesy / pop-esque, but a brilliant start to the album
3. Paradise - This is an odd one - on the first few listens, it's wishy-washy and flat. I hated it. But give it time and you're singing along to the highly infectious "Para-Para-Paradise". A very strong track
4. Charlie Brown - This one's my favourite and should particularly appeal to X&Y / Viva Fans. A delightful blend of strength and emotion. Classic Coldplay
5. Us Against the World - A nudge to their older styles. It's gentle, acoustic and very pleasant
6. M.M.I.X. - Another interlude. Not to be underestimated though, it's a perfect lead-up to what is perhaps the best-known song of this album:
7. Every Teardrop... blah blah - Overall a solid and a thoroughly enjoyable track (Still good after 100+ listens) the second half feels a bit messy with a lot of different instruments mixed in though
8. Major Minus - A dark, powerful yet quirky piece. Quite infectious as the "got one eye on the road and one on you" quickly sticks
9. U.F.O. - A bit underwhelming after some of the bigger tracks of the album, but is a lovely little acoustic piece
10. Princess of China - Coldplay and Rihanna!? I had nightmares about this one. But to their credit, they've done this one well. It's sharp, loaded with synth and Rihanna makes a superb contribution (It's ok, it's not like Lost+, you can come out from behind the sofa now)
11. Up In Flames - Personally my favourite ballad of the album. Haunting yet very beautiful
12. A Hopeful Transmission - Another 30 second interlude. Nothing special though
13. Don't Let It Break Your Heart - My least favourite. To this day I still have no idea what Chris is singing. It sounds pleasant and upbeat, but lacks the usual Coldplay edge
14. Up With The Birds - The finale to the album carries hints of 'Amsterdam' and 'Death & All His Friends'. It's nicely done but the crescendo feels more underwhelming than it could have been.
Overall, a brilliant piece of work by Coldplay that keeps their style whilst pushing the boat into new territory - just needs some breaking in