Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Mission: Coldplay

Well folks, I have heard it, and it is beautiful. Yesterday I was the first (non-press of course) to listen to the new Coldplay album X&Y as part of a new series MTV will be airing called "Live Leak." Instead of just posting a new album on the MTV.com website, they'll find big fans bring them in to listen to it, and then have a live performance from the band. All this will look like one day on the show, but yesterday was the first part, and tomorrow will be the performance. The album was impressive and ambitious, and for all you Coldplay fans out there, I stealthily snuck out my notes from the listening session, so read on to hear my track by track breakdown.

First off, let me say that I am not meant to be on TV. I brought my hometown gal and uber Coldplay fan, Jen, as my plus one and she's much better at doing the whole camera thing. Makes sense, since she is WQAQ’s News gal. When we first arrived, a very non-MTV2 guy asked us if we'd be part of an MTV2 show called "The Playlist" or something to that effect. Basically this is what we had to do: "Hey Coldplay, I think you guys are awesome, BUT the top three favorite (insert category here) bands that are on my playlist right now are, (band #1), (band #2), aaaaaaaaaand...(pause) (band #3). Basically Coldplay is supposed to guess your third band. Those MTV guys are genius.

Jen, the future MTV Vee-jay, about to do her segment:

(by the way, you can all hate my friend Jen because not only did she come with me yesterday and will come to the 80 person show tomorrow, she gets to see the Beacon Theater Coldplay show tonight as well.)

So Jen's category was favorite Irish Musicians (U2, Damien Rice....aaaaand....The Corrs) while I opted to give some free publicity to my favorites, by doing my favorite New York bands. I had to my segment a couple times, because apparently I'm not enthusiastic enough, reason why I should never be on TV. So this was my claim to fame:
"Hey Coldplay, welcome to MY hometown! While you are here you should check out MY top three favorite New York bands, The Walkmen, The French Kicks...aaaaaaand.......Interpol."

The MTV2 guy asked me why I didn't say The Strokes and I gave him a dirty look. I wouldn't be surprised if my little segment ends up on the cutting room floor. Thus began my excitement mixed with a lot of side comments about how ridiculous MTV is.

So we finally made it upstairs and we had to check in all of our electronic devices. I was given two cubby holes cause I'm that cool. They gave us these snazzy folders with the odd artwork of X&Y and inside was THE WORST press release I've ever read, a track listing, notebook, and a pen (which we MUST return, they were very adamant, lord knows they can't afford any new Bic pens). I've read terrible press releases, but this one had to be the worst. Jen kept telling me to shush because I was screaming out lines and profanities. But the word "cheese" was most used most frequently.

So the 30 or so of us were brought to a room with a long colored table and state of the art chairs (which you can also find in the NYU library, surprise surprise). With MTV execs and Capitol Records folk looming over, and cameras in our face, I sat back, relaxed and gave this album a justified listen.

Without further adieu, X&Y:

1. "Square One" - Not the powerful opener I wanted like "Politik" did for the last album, but sets the stage. Expect epic Coldplay from this album. It's big, it's layered, it's meant to be played live. None of the songs are as initially catchy as previous albums, and this one is its best example. It plays around with a lot of electronics through the guitars and drums, and Martin's voice itself. You'll hear a repeated structure in all of the songs, starts out simple, rises to a big bang, and then brings it back down. I liked, but wasn't duelly impressed yet.

2. "What If" - Ah, my piano ballad. I smiled. This is Coldplay at my favorite. Stripped down, raw, emotional. Could definitely be a single, it's along the same lines as "In My Place" or even "The Scientist." You'll also notice a very specific order in the album. It basically goes from big number to small. This is the polar opposite of "Sqaure One" and it's an interesting contrast throughout.

3. "White Shadows" - Okay people, Coldplay has gone 80's. Not that 80's though, think big hair 80's. But this is definitely has the highest production sound to it. Much more guitars than keyboards, and it's dark and yet still catchy. This is the first time we hear organs and synthesizers, which leads perfectly into the next song.

4. "Fix You" - A long organ drone introduces one of my favorite tracks from the album (you may have heard it on that little show, The OC). This is a great ballad that keeps with the epic proportions of the other songs. They mixed organs and acoustic guitars, and layered with Martin's voice creates something quite extraordinary. I had chills listening to it.

5. "Talk" - Looking at my notes, I actually wrote "Where's Bono?" U2 has a rival for biggest band in the world, and this song could easily easily been written by the Irish lads. The guitars are on par with Edge (not kidding) and I would love to hear Bono try and take on Martin's part. It has that same rise and fall that Bono has perfected. Jen thinks one day Coldplay and U2 will go on tour together. I'd be there.

6. "X&Y" - Quite a curve ball, especially as a title track. It's off beat musically, and is mysteriously trippy. It has definite movement.

7. "Speed of Sound" - I'm sure you've heard this already. When I first heard this single a couple weeks back, I wasn't as impressed. But hearing it in context of the entire album gave it new light. This whole theme of travel and movement, and even space-like proportions reigns through the entire album. This song made sense as the first single. It's a perfect segway between the "old" and "new" Coldplay (although I'd hate to say it's entirely new, just a step up). It's less experimental than some of the other tracks, but damn catchy.

8. "A Message" - Another favorite of my tracks, again brought back to the stripped down Coldplay that I grew to love. Could have easily been a track off of Parachutes.

9. "Low" - The big numbers began to feel a little too familiar at this point. The structure was almost identical. But this one had a little surprise. There's a very cool part where they use xylophones (I think) that made this song stand out on its own. I can see a remix of this song one day that even I might dance to.

10. "The Hardest Part" - The most American sounding song on this album. Musically, it has a swing to it, and I even turned to Jen and started saying "1-2-cha-cha-cha" while she rolled her eyes. It's not thematically on par with the rest of the album, but I enjoyed bopping my head to it.

11. "Swallowed in the Sea" - Okay, Martin, tell me a story. I'll listen. Lyrically this felt like the strongest number, even reminded me of the Decemberists, especially on their latest album. But this will be my sing-a-long song for sure. If you've ever seen Coldplay live, think, "Everything's Not Lost." I can see the whole arena chanting along already.

12. "Twisted Logic" - Okay, now this one was THE favorite. What a way to end it. What they lacked in the opener, completely made up for it with the kicker. It's everything this whole album and even Coldplay's career thus far wants to achieve. It battles back and forth between major and minor, electric and acoustic, all while Martin's haunting voice is singling "forwards and backwards." There was this incredible bass line that you felt building up throughout the whole song, just waiting for it to explode. And then "zap" (literally) it ends, and I was amazed.

13. "Til Kingdom Come" (Hidden Track) - MTV even allowed us to listen to a secret track, how generous! This one is solely Martin and a guitar, and it should be played in my living room, on my couch, while I am going to sleep. I thought this could have been Apple's lullaby, but apparently it turned out to be an ode to Johnny Cash. Basically the same thing.

Well friends, there you have it. Overall consensus? I think it's definitely worth your time and your money. It's quite the step up for those British lads, and even though it took them three years, it seems like the time was well spent. I'm glad they opted for ambitious rather than safe, and most of the time they pulled it off. There are few bands that are meant to be heard live, especially in large arenas. But these songs have it written all over them. And while I'll be seeing them tomorrow in a small MTV studio, I think these songs live will bring a whole new experience. That, to me, is when music is at its best.


Chris said...

i can't wait to hear this, especially after your song by song review. thanks.

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