You have to give Coldplay credit for consistency. While peers such as U2 and Radiohead went through periods of weirdness—the latter’s pretty much permanently enmeshed in an experimental phase at this point—Chris Martin & Co. have never wavered far from their core strengths: well-crafted pop tunes with soaring choruses, undeniable hooks and universal optimism. Even as they’ve explored keyboard-based soundscapes (2005’s X&Y) or embraced atmospherics influenced by Brian Eno’s production (2008’s Viva la Vida), Coldplay has never sounded too far outside of the mainstream.
- Coldplay 'Mylo Xyloto'
Fifth record Mylo Xyloto is no exception: A subdued, reflective version of Viva la Vida, it’s full of neo-futuristic pop bursting with shimmering keyboards, shivering orchestras and haunted guitar echoes. “Hurts Like Heaven” is a spritely modern-rock tune in the vein of Phoenix; “Charlie Brown” is a strident rocker that sounds like Springsteen coated with twinkling fairy dust; “Up in Flames” has a pleasing, drowsy beat that conjures trip-hop’s heyday; and “U.F.O.” succeeds on the strength of acoustic guitar, Martin’s lovely falsetto and subtle strings.
The album’s most pleasant surprise just might be the genre-bending “Princess of China.” Featuring Rihanna on guest vocals, it’s a loping tune driven by a rhythmic heartbeat, watery piano and staticky synths. Still, Mylo Xyloto ultimately feels rather bland. There’s no real sense of emotional urgency in either direction, whether deliriously happy or profoundly sad, and that makes for pleasant but dispensable listening.