Saturday, June 14, 2008

the old king is dead. long live the king!

It would not be wildly inaccurate of me to say that Coldplay get more negative column inches of reportage than almost any other mega-successful music act of the 21st century (save possibly for my own beloved Keane).

Their fourth studio album (from what I have read) has been met by what can only be described as a lukewarm response but as I sit here listening to it for the seventh time since release I am going to nail my colours well and truly to the mast and tell you that it is *brilliant*.

I am not quite sure what there is for people to dislike quite so vehemently. From the superb opening instrumental "Life in Technicolor", "Viva la Vida" fits together as a record much better than anything Coldplay have released before. Whilst it might not have the searing highlights of previous albums, its consistent quality is its strength and this is therefore a much better overall record than, say "X and Y".

"Viva la Vida" builds gently and carefully and rather than a collection of disparate songs, it is harder to determine where one ends and another begins, particularly on the atmospheric and rich first half of the album.

Critics have seen the title track as some sort of lowpoint on this record; I'd argue the reverse. For those of us with pop rather than artistic sensibilities, "Viva la Vida" acts as a soaring centrepiece for this record, reprised mournfully on the gentle final track "Death and All His Friends".

As with previous Coldplay offerings, if one had to pick a criticism it would be in Martin's schoolboy lyrics which, whilst they have improved since "X and Y" (there's no rhyme with the same word in evidence) still lack any significant depth or perspicacity. It's a small gripe though as the superb production and melodies mask any and all lyrical shortcomings.

Simply, this is a tremendous record. As unfashionable as it seems to be to love Coldplay, love them I do and the mere fact I have been unable and unwilling to listen to any other album for three solid days tells you everything you need to know about how great this record really is.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

the international professionals

Original it may not be, but latest single "10,000 Nights" shameless namechecking of "Wuthering Heights" and "Safety Dance" leaves you in no doubt of the era which influenced Danish six piece Alphabeat's sound.

From the opening brilliance of "Fantastic Six" through top 2 singles "Fascination" and the aforementioned "10,000 Nights" to the great "What Is Happening?" it's a short (36 minutes) popfest of the highest order.

Sounding variously like the B52's, Roxette and assorted 80s pop acts, it's frothy and lightweight, but I absolutely love it.

Royworld's debut album is an interesting affair. The single "Dust" has tickled the lower echelons of the top 40 and had some minor airplay and is probably the pick here. Royworld have one of those sounds which is entirely derivative without you specifically being able to put your finger on exactly who they sound like.

I guess it's a bit like a cross between Captain and Buggles (if you can imagine such a thing) - some 80s influenced keyboard with some nice soaring guitarwork.

I like the sound, and "Dust" is a great record but I can't help being very slightly disappointed with this record as I feel it could have been really quite special. As it is, it's certainly worth a listen but probably not unmitigated genius.

There's not much left to say about Alanis' musical output. TO be fair, I think she has long reached the stage where she's unlikely to attract any new converts - for the rest of us it is just a case of how long we hold on.

Luckily, her albums remain of a really good standard (I am one of a minority who believes her albums have been on an upward curve since "Jagged Little Pill" (with the possible exception of the last one)). "Flavors of Entanglement" is everything you'd expect from Alanis - wordy, sharp and spiky with the added ingredient this time of it being her "break-up" record after the end of her relationship with ditzy Hollywood C-lister Ryan Reynolds. This adds some liberal swearing the mix as well as (if it were possible) making her more angry than she invariably is.

I could listen to it all day long, frankly, but I imagine Ryan won't be....