Veteran producer Brian Eno, who has coaxed seminal work out of bands ranging from the Talking Heads to U2, gives his assistance to Coldplay here in fine tuning their sound, while also pushing their songs to scale new heights of effortless grace and melodicism. This is clearly one of the event albums of the year in pop music, and it does not disappoint in quality. While the music is clearly connected with the band's past efforts, the sound of the songs here subtly pushes forward into an expansiveness that is at times breathtaking.
Released June 2008 by Capitol Records
A Graceful Return
Sweeping in on the jangling instrumental "Life in Technicolor," it is unmistakable from the opening bars that this is Coldplay. Chris Martin's ever-soaring voice makes its appearance on the slightly gloomy but spirited "Cemeteries of London." There is a grace to Coldplay's work which warmly draws listeners in. Some may complain that the threads binding Coldplay's work together as distinctive may indicate an unwillingness on the part of the group members to extend the musical palette. However, to these ears, it is the sign of mature artists in touch with their own muse intent on enriching the musical experience of their millions of fans. Coldplay's music connects instantly with melodic and emotional appeal.
Subtle Introductions in Instrumental Range
Brian Eno brings some welcome expansions in the instrumental colors used by Coldplay this time around. The strings use a wider variety of sounds to create a textured appeal instead of simple washes of sound. Electronic pulses appear here and there to provide a counterpoint to the otherwise organic tapestry. Just like the Frida Kahlo painting which lends this album its title, the more varied sound throbs with the sound of life.
Top Tracks on 'Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends'
- "Viva La Vida"
- "Violet Hill"
A Truly Satisfying Album
Coldplay are firing on all cylinders here and still getting better. There was a meticulousness on the album X&Y that at times bordered on pretentiousness. Brian Eno's production manages here to simply let Coldplay be the band they are while making the overall sound more interesting and engaging. Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends may fall a few strokes short of masterpiece, but it is one of the most satisfying albums of the year thus far.