Coldplay pioneers electronic frontiers in Xyloto

When Coldplay released its debut album, Parachutes, with its layers of beautiful, melancholic arrangements contrasting with the light-hearted lyrics of frontman Chris Martin, the band impressed audiences worldwide and started a movement that still resonates today. Alongside Radiohead, Coldplay has solidified itself atop the Britpop pedestal, each release a progressive climb towards pop icon status.

Mylo Xyloto continues in the Coldplay tradition — multiple crescendos, intricate arrangements and reflective social commentary — but with a more electronic, new wave direction.

Similar to its predecessor Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, Mylo Xyloto shows the group branching out into different realms of music: “Hurts Like Heaven” is reminiscent of The Cure with its soaring, moody vocals and synthy passages. “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” and its arena rock guitars are complemented by a thumping bass drum. The subtle harmonies are enthralling, veiled by lightly strummed acoustic guitar that adds to the song’s powerful sound.

“Princess of China” and its fuzzy synths, electronic hand claps and vocal contribution from Rihanna, showcases the band’s admiration for hip-hop. Martin comes off as confident in territory that is familiar to the hip-hop diva, resulting in a strangely intriguing union between the two.

The album bridges the gap between Coldplay’s poppy, piano-driven past and its electronic future: There is an almost flawless balancing of the two worlds, indicating the band’s desire to intermingle sounds and ideas that might have been difficult earlier in their career. The band easily experiments, taking elements from its past that propelled it into the mainstream, while successfully adding a component of unfamiliarity.

Though, it can be displeasing at times. “Up In Flames” leans too far into the electronic realm, and unlike most songs on the album, there is no captivating build. “Us Against the World” can also be redundant: it would have been perfect on Viva La Vida, but its significance on Mylo Xyloto is out of place. This is where Coldplay experiences trouble — rather than sticking to its guns, it either leans too far to the left or right. The struggle between the complacency of its old, definitive sound and fascination with its newfound sound is apparent in these songs, taking away from the album’s overall fluidity.

Mylo Xyloto indicates a turning point for Coldplay. Yes, the piano and acoustic guitar still remain a part of the band’s music, but it is the exploration of new territory and how it will manipulate it that will prove why Coldplay is a noteworthy band.

Printed on Tuesday, October 25, 2011 as: Britpop mainstays go electronic