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Coldplay’s latest LP falls short of its grand aspirations

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Annie Zaleski

Three stars

Coldplay A Head Full of Dreams

Coldplay’s biggest hits have tended to fall into the categories of surging rock tunes or earnest piano ballads, and the band’s seventh studio album has no shortage of either. “Everglow” finds frontman Chris Martin showing off a deeper and more nuanced vocal range, as he seemingly comes to terms with his divorce, while the title track highlights Edge-like, reverb-coated guitar jangle.

But the U.K. quartet’s most interesting moments, historically, have explored the intersection of modern pop sounds and cerebral electronic music. That’s also the case on A Head Full of Dreams, which retains the adventurous spirit of 2011’s Mylo Xyloto while possessing a contemporary production sheen, thanks to co-producer Stargate (Rihanna, Katy Perry). The somber piano instrumental “Kaleidoscope” and Viva La Vida-esque “Colour Spectrum” sample Barack Obama singing “Amazing Grace;” “Army of One” features some slick retro electro-pop production before seguing to the grooving hip-hop jam “X Marks the Spot;” and the measured “Fun” is an ’80s Euro-pop throwback featuring wistful vocal harmonies from Tove Lo.

Highlight “Up & Up” has equally huge guest stars—vocals from Merry Clayton and guitars from Noel Gallagher—though their contributions are barely discernible between the mincing orchestral samples, clattering ice-drop rhythms and burbling electronic touches. Even more disappointing is “Hymn for the Weekend”: Not only are Beyoncé’s vocals buried and thin-sounding, but the song’s analogies between love and debauchery are cringeworthy. It highlights the album’s main downfall: Coldplay’s new music doesn’t measure up to its sonic ambitions and marquee collaborations. A Head Full of Dreams overflows with good intentions and intriguing ideas, but lacks focus and cohesion.

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