Coldplay had their best days behind them by this point. Although they were still hugely successful commercially, their music seemingly lost its way after the 2008 album Viva La Vida. To top it all off, singer Chris Martin had split from his partner Gwyneth Paltrow around the time this was released and the mood for their band wasn’t the best. Still, this album from 2014 fared worse than even their previous album Mylo Xyloto did. Is this still worth hearing? Let’s find out.
Always In My Head launches with a faded intro keyboard that sounds like ethereal vocals. An odd intro, this does sound blissful, however. Soon enough, the song launches into action with clean Fender guitars and some nicely programmed drum beats. Chris Martin sings in a clear and plain voice and obviously is singing about his own personal issues of the time. Coldplay sounds very good here, and they do impress with their music and textures here. “You’re always in my head…” repeats Chris Martin, and he sounds very reflective here. This is a gorgeous song that, despite its simplicity, works well. A really sweet listening experience through and through. Great music. It ends abruptly after three and a half minutes of music.
Magic is one of the most popular tunes from this album. It begins with some subtle bass guitars and simple drums before Chris Martin enters into a good piece of music about relationship issues. Wearing his heart on his sleeve, he makes a very impressionable listening experience that sounds pleasant for all its depressing lyrics. This is more about textures and sonic parts rather than actual songcraft, which is a slight flaw in this song. In any case, this is perfectly listenable and enjoyable music to be heard. This is a very emotional, deep and listenable piece of music that makes a great deal of sense if you have lost a loved one to a relationship breakup. The second half has some delicious harmonies, strummed acoustic guitars and some interesting sounds abound, this works very well. A great and interesting song full of relationship pain, this is worth hearing. Excellent song. It fades out peacefully.
Ink begins with some ghostly textures, digital bongo based percussion and acoustic guitars to boot. This is quite different musically and sounds quite fresh in its own way as a result. Chris Martin sings about getting tattoos on himself, and again, this is far more textural than song based listening. This is another breakup song, complete with Burt Bacharach styled horns throughout. A weird and trashy lyrical song, it is saved by the rather electronic production here. Despite this flaw, this tune works well and is full of disappointment and regret with a partner. Relationships can be rocky at times, and Chris Martin shows the world of music that is the case. There are some irresistible harmonies towards the end before this concludes. Good effort, it fades out in a ghostly way.
True Love begins with some unusual instrumentation and keyboards before Chris Martin quickly gets singing about his own love life here. Admittedly, this sounds incredibly selfish lyrically and this makes Chris Martin come right across as a guy you can’t really stand personality wise. Still, this is a good tune to listen to, despite the lyrical flaws. It is sonically adventurous, and has many sounds throughout that follow the wall-of-sound Phil Spector style technique here. Chris Martin pleads for Gwyneth Paltrow (obviously) not to leave his life, which is rather sad, but unnecessary to hear. There is an also unnecessary guitar solo in the second half that does sound awful. Not the best, obviously. It drags on a little, but this is a good song, without being a great song. It ends with a keyboard note sustained, launching straight into the next track.
Midnight begins with some delayed U2 style guitar sounds, which are quite pretty and different. This builds up to some dual-tracked and autotuned vocals from Chris Martin. This is definitely more textural than a song based piece, but the rather interesting sonic textures do sound really great here. A good listen, especially if you like electronic music of any sort, this is a good listen throughout. There are a multitude of awesome and pretty textures in this song. Towards the middle, Chris Martin sings some awesome harmonies amongst the textures that are really mindblowing listening. A really awesome tune to enjoy, this does sounds super blissful. In the second half, the sounds and textures build up intensely, along with some extra keyboard melodies thrown into the mix. A wonderful, innovative and grandiose listen is present here. This could have been shortened a little, however. Chris Martin’s dual-tracked vocals return right at the end here, to conclude this tune that is drenched in reverb. Good stuff.
Another’s Arms begins with some female gospel wordless vocals before Chris Martin and company get going. Chris Martin sings about missing his lover deeply. Electronic drums and percussion enter, which quite frankly, aren’t that good. A nice listen, all the same, this isn’t the greatest song from this album. Again, it is much more textural and electronically experimental than really song based. Which is both good and bad. Chris Martin sings reflecting about love long lost, and he does a decent job here of articulating his emotions and concerns. This tune is quite good, and the album is fairly unnecessarily criticised as well in some ways. There is a neat guitar part towards the end, along with the female backing vocals. Excellent music here, and Chris Martin finishes this off with a final verse, wishing that his love was with him, whilst watching TV. Simple stuff.
Oceans is a longer piece with an unorthodox acoustic guitar tuned differently than in standard tuning. This sounds bright, fresh and mellow sonically. Chris Martin sings over the top of this, pleading for his lover to return to him, yet again. He breaks into a deep falsetto here and does incredibly and wonderfully well. A simple, pretty and enjoyable piece of music. Soon enough, keyboards enter in the left channel, making this tune sound a little warmer as a result. This tune does lack suspense and drags on a bit, but still, Chris Martin and Coldplay do play very nicely along here. A good but simple piece of music. In the second half, a synth string section emerges, making this more suspenseful to hear than before. A forward thinking tune, it ends prematurely, followed by some interesting electronic textures that change frequently. Soon after, some more electronic melodies build up, swirling through the mix. This has some church bells in the background as well, and this piece repeats for a bit too long, before going into the next track.
A Sky Full Of Stars launches straight into it, with thumping piano and this is the most popular song from the album. Chris Martin sings nicely here, and he launches into a good and impressive tune here. This is a good highlight from this album, and Chris Martin comes across as a bit of a desperate guy for Gwyneth Paltrow, which isn’t all that great an impression. Still, context aside, the music present is quite good, but definitely lacking compared to previous Coldplay hits. It’s honestly a fairly overrated song as a result. Regardless, this is okay, but doesn’t work as nicely as it should. It sounds like Coldplay attempting to make a House/Trance styled tune, and falls flat in that area. The progressions here aren’t exciting either, the whole thing is a chore to listen to. Too Pop oriented, it has not aged all that well. Fortunately, it is only four minutes long and has a nice outro.
O is the last track on this album. It begins with some classical influenced piano playing, which is pretty and peaceful sounding. Soon enough, Chris Martin launches into his singing and he sings about flocks of birds (honestly, what for mate?) and he paints the picture fairly obviously. The theme of heartbreak and misery continues on this tune, and the whole thing is pretty, but dull, just like much of this album. In a huge state of melancholy, Chris Martin struggles to make focused music at hand. Despite that, this is okay, but not the best Coldplay has ever done. There are some interesting electronic sounds and textures throughout, which are interesting. Nonetheless, this sounds quite good regardless. There is a false ending, followed by some silence for a few seconds before keyboard sounds re-enters from earlier in the album. A good piece of interesting songcraft to conclude this album, the choir styled vocals are soothing. A good way to finish off this primarily electronic album, and very warm sounding indeed.
This is quite a good album that gets a lot of criticism for its musicality. That kind of makes sense as although there are no really outright bad songs on this release, a lot of it is fairly bland, average and boring. This is Coldplay experimenting with sound, rather than creating good and memorable songs like they used to. Should you listen to this album? Only really so if you dig other Coldplay music out there. Otherwise, it is not really recommended to hear.
The Burt Bacharach of the 21st century.