Since Coldplay‘s two first melancholic, similar-sounding - albeit incredibly infectious - breakout albums, they’ve managed to solidify arena status with even poppier guilty pleasure tunes of bittersweet euphoria (see “Fix You“). Through sheer determination and longevity, they’ve outlasted not only their ‘it-band’ beginnings and Top-40 domination periods, but also the fashionable derision phase shared with Nickelback, breaking through to the “meta-hipster” stage of being so uncool that they’re cool again (at least to alt-journos).

In this setting, they release an album largely focusing on Martin’s recent split with Gwyneth Paltrow – quite the popular theme these days. In the end, Martin wants to hear he’s loved, even if it’s a “lie.” While some hater-fans may oblige, Paltrow and many reviewers likely won’t. Coldplay’s got production firepower to harness any trend, but it appears they have run out of catchy chords and melodies to bring their mid-shelf brand of melancholy home.

Always in My Head

Martin’s split is not only still “always in [his] head,” but also worsening his existing insomnia. The album opener is romantic, dreamy, and just the shade of cheesy that we expect and even enjoy from the boys – but it’s no catchy-as-hell tearjerker. Maybe that’ll come later in the album: [LISTEN]

"Always in My Head"

Magic

Opening with a very Radiohead bassline, Martin bemoans the “magical” feeling he gets being “next to” his lost love. It’s new and unique for them, but also feels a bit more imitative than their past phases – still, though, while it’s not earworm status, the boys are consistent: [LISTEN]

"Magic"

Ink

Yikes – sure, their appeal is a bit on the shallower side, but this Christian rock-reject/island-acoustic-for-tools hybrid is uncomfortable. It follows in Martin’s post-marital sadness motif, only with a focus on regrettable tattoo decisions that remind of parodic boy bands: [LISTEN]

"Ink"

True Love

Martin wants to hear he’s loved, even if it’s a “lie.” While some hater-fans may oblige, Paltrow and many reviewers likely won’t. Coldplay’s got production firepower to harness any trend (trap hats here), but they seem to have run out of catchy chords and melodies. Although, the weird solo’s cool: [LISTEN]

"True Love"

Midnight

Less of a divorce track, focusing instead on “weathering the storm” of general bleakness, “Midnight” helps Martin find a glimpse of positivity. The autotune and ambient house groove are subtly tasteful, adding to both the Bon Iver comparisons being made, and the pop trope blender the group’s become: [LISTEN]

"Midnight"

Another’s Arms

There are far less allegorical “ghost stories” here than the album claims to provide, but there’s nothing quite like a power ballad to continue the record’s theme of breakup reminiscing and regret. Also like the rest of the album, it doesn’t really stick in your memory: [LISTEN]

"Another's Arms"

Oceans

Even with cinematic strings, sonar sound effects and acoustic guitar, Martin’s reflection on our loneliness “in this world” makes this one of Coldplay’s darkest tracks – even if its instrumentation feels like the water music from Super Mario 64 (maybe those are the titular oceans?): [LISTEN]

"Oceans"

A Sky Full of Stars

The lads go full house, filters and all – as well as biting a bit on Katy Perry’s “Firework,” although Coldplay’s take is more enjoyable to non-preteens. It’s joyous and all, but the more they rely on trends, the more they hold themselves back from another breakout hit: [LISTEN]

"A Sky Full of Stars"

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Back to basics – they’ve returned to the introspective pop, piano ballad sound that propelled them to stardom whilst Martin ponders birds morosely as seagulls faintly squawk in the background, soaked in reverb. After that, fans are treated to a dreamy hidden reprise that tops the record: [LISTEN]

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