on October 24, 2011
Wow. I am really shocked how much I like Mylo Xyloto. I am a long-time Coldplay fan and just love their music, but I wasn't sure about this record due to the slight change in style. The first half of the record I was mostly familiar with due to the singles, live versions and the side A sampler. The only song on side B that I had heard was Major Minus. Obviously, the second part of the record was what I was looking forward to the most as it was mostly new, unheard Coldplay!
I can definitely see why this record has fans divided. It is a new sound for Coldplay in terms of production and direction. However, there are many tracks where 'early' Coldplay is still there, just under new layers. Utimately, I gave the record a 4/5, with a point deducted for some unnecessary over-production. I do truly feel it deserves it though. It is a good mix of all the previous records, while still moving forward.
Just beautiful. I love this as the opening track and the transition into Hurts Like Heaven. Although, I am with others who have said it's hard to listen to just MX or HLH by themselves...
Hurts Like Heaven:
Probably the track I was most fearing as I love the live version and people were saying it was so different on the record. I was pleasantly surprised that it did not crush my enjoyment of the track! I LOVE this song! Yes, it is a bit over-produced, but I also think that makes it interesting. There are so many sounds and layers to the track that a good set of headphones brings out.
No surprises here. The second single. It's definitely a grower. I liked it when I first heard it, but the introduction is just fantastic the more I listen to it. It fits so well on the record now I have heard it in context.
This is my favourite track on the record. It is such a great track and should definitely be released as the next single! The piano part at the end is just fantastic. This will be a big hit and crowd-pleaser!
Us Against The World:
LOVE! This is such an amazing song! I adore the introduction. I loved this track live and this version just makes it all the better. Only quip is I wish Will's duet portion was more pronounced. The first song on the record that sounds like 'early' Coldplay material.
This instrumental makes Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall flow within the context of the record. If this was not here, it would be such an abrupt change from UATW.
Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall:
Again, no surprises. The first single and a really upbeat and optimistic song. It is pretty dancey for Coldplay, but it's a great song nonetheless.
I had already heard this from the Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall EP. It's a fantastic track and really like it. I would have preferred less distortion on the verse vocals, but Jonny's guitar solo is awesome!
This is such a lovely acoustic track and reminds me so much of 'early' Coldplay. The melody is great, but I just wish it was a tad bit longer.
Princess of China:
I was really surprised by this one! First, Rihanna being on the track is strange. I think this might be one of her better vocal performances though. The song itself is very RnB to me, but I don't mind it. I am surprised to be honest as I was going in thinking I was going to really dislike it, but I think if this is released as a single, it will probably be a big hit. However, it's definitely one of my least favourite tracks on the record.
Up In Flames:
I really didn't think I was going to like this song. I had heard a clip of the Austin City Limits live version and it just didn't do anything for me. However, within the context of the record and with the added production (think Massive Attack style beat), I think this is a good track. Again, it reminds me of 'early' Coldplay but it's not up to par with the rest of the album. I consider this track and Princess of China to be the low point of the record really.
A Hopeful Transmission:
Probably the best instrumental on the record. It's basically a more upbeat 'Mylo Xyloto' with a sort of Latin vibe. It flows so well into Don't Let It Break Your Heart.
Don't Let It Break Your Heart:
Wow. One of my favourite tracks! As with Hurts Like Heaven and Major Minus, I wish there wasn't as much distortion on Chris' voice, but really that's the only negative I see on this stellar track!
Up With The Birds:
A fantastic closer! Again, like 'early' Coldplay but with a modern twist. It starts so atmospheric, I had no clue what direction it was going to go! It's a beautiful track and such a great way to close the record!
on November 8, 2011
I'm a fan of Coldplay. Even if their work isn't revolutionary, it sounds good, and each album has been different from the last. I really, really fell in love with them after hearing their astonishingly good album Viva La Vida. With it's really interesting world-inspired music, moving string sections, crisp instruments piano parts, just beautifully played guitar parts, and unique rhythms, it's an all around great album that's different from most anything I've heard in the past. Needless to say I was eagerly awaiting this new album, expecting it to follow from the greatness that inspired Viva.
To some extent, they hit the mark musically. Their songs are catchy, fit the general musical feel of 2011, but still differentiate themselves with Chris's vocals and Buckland's signature guitar riffs. It's good music.
However, words cannot express the disappointment I have with the mastering on this CD. It is absolutely horrible. Every single track is at 11 with the volume for the duration of the song unless it fades in or fades out. There is no dynamic contrast at all. Sections that are supposed to sound loud and impressive and acoustically huge do not... which is really a crying shame because so many of the songs would benefit from such dynamics. What should be the huge crescendos in the songs instead end up sounding boring and flat, sitting right in with the rest of the song. The mixes are terribly crowded and everything is smashed together and muddy.
The vocals and drums especially suffer from this. Instead of the vocals being out front during the chorus and at times when they are clearly singing the lead in the song, they end up pushed together with the rest of the "accompanying" parts and sound like they are competing for acoustic clarity. Vocals literally sound like they are clipping at times ("Paradise"'s chorus, "Princess of China" during Rihanna's vocal lead in the latter half of the song, what would be "Charlie Brown"'s huge energy building bridge at 2:30). Chris and co don't have any room to budge volume-wise, and because they're very dynamic, it doesn't surprise me that they were clipping considering the job done on rest of the instruments.
Cymbals sound harsh, overwhelming and literally make me cringe. The bass drum is far too loud, even with the intention being that this album have songs that sound somewhat like dance music. What sounds like a timpani drum in "Major Minus" ends up being far too loud and flattens out at what is supposed to be its dynamic peak. Synthesizer parts sound terribly distorted, and not just for effect in the song. Strings, synthesizer pads, and piano parts, which in past Coldplay songs have been beautifully crisp and sounded excellent sound like they've lost a significant amount of fidelity because they've had all the emotion compressed out of them (listen to the strings and accompanying pads on "Paradise", especially at the drop; the pads in "Charlie Brown"). After this process, they are cranked up to their proper levels with the terrible artifacts of squashing sound present and loud and clear.
The ending to "Charlie Brown," in particular, sounds like it was played on the piano from "The Scientist," and should have been played like the small piano motif at the end of "Cemeteries of London." It just sounds so terrible in "Charlie Brown." Where as the piano in both of these other songs has a wonderfully rounded out and clear sound, breathes beautifully, sounds like a real instrument, and actually varies properly in volume with the rest of the song, the piano at the end of "Charlie Brown" sound overdriven, fuzzy, fake, and hurts to listen to as a piano player.
It is beyond me how this album got out of the door with Coldplay's approval. The sound engineers ruined all the small things that make instruments sound good. Instead of having clear, distinct sounds for each one of the instruments, it become hard and requires significant effort on my part to pick out one sound from the next. Everything blends together in an aural mess that just does not sound good. Emotion from dynamics is for the most part lost.
I can only hope that they will get a real, professional recording engineer who knows how to mix rock music correctly to remaster this. If so, they should distribute a digital version of that remaster to everyone who purchased the album.
I'm incredibly disappointed. This is the only Coldplay album I regret buying. I only give it two stars because I do like the music.
on October 24, 2011
I know that, for reasons unfathomable to me, it isn't very cool to be a fan of Coldplay these days. It makes me sad that my favorite band gets so much hate. But I have been a super fan from the very beginning, and this album really cements my love for this fantastic group. Mylo Xyloto very accurately reflects the Coldplay you see in concert. Hyper, fun, happy guys, and a sweetness that makes me want to cry a little. Four men whose love for making music shines through. Yeah, this album is different from Parachutes and A Rush of Blood To the Head (Sparks is now and forever my favorite song), but I've loved listening to this band grow. I wouldn't want to listen to 5 albums of the exact same music. Stand-outs for me on Mylo Xyloto are Paradise and Us Against The World. Paradise is some beautiful pop and UATW is a classic, sweet Coldplay ballad. For me, this album is just another great reason to be a Coldplay fan.
on November 9, 2011
I don't typically write reviews on Amazon. In general, my opinions don't seem earth-shattering enough that I need to share them with the rest of the world. However, as a musician, as a follower of rock music, and as a Coldplay fan I feel this time that I need to speak up. I am hugely disappointed with this new album by Coldplay! Creatively, it has some merits but certainly falls short of their previous albums. But much more disturbing is the horrible production and mastering on this thing. It just sounds absolutely awful!! As other reviewers have pointed out, any artistic merit on this album is lost in the blast of distortion and massive audio compression that has been employed. I am so dismayed that a band as respected as Coldplay would sign off on this sonic nightmare. I am well aware of the loudness war that is going on in the music industry. But my respect for Coldplay has really been diminished by this release. Did no one in that band (I'm assuming all four of those boys had to sign off on this thing) have the balls to say "God, this thing sounds like crap?! Do we really have to release it with such an awful mix?"). If this was some second rate pop band it would be easy to write all this off, but this is Coldplay!!!
It is so ironic to me that at a time when recording technology is better than ever to do beautiful, true-to-life recordings, this is the kind of mess that a band of Coldplay's stature would release. Listening to this thing is painful at times. The vocals are frequently drowned out by the exaggerated blast of bass and other instruments. I can barely get through it on my stereo at home.
I think it's really important for people who care about music, and who care about the sound quality of music, to speak out against this disturbing trend that Coldplay has now bought into. I never thought I would buy a Coldplay album and regret it, but I'm afraid the time has come. Apparently, loudness, distortion and ear-splitting noise have become the new high fidelity. It sure does make me long for the old days...
Please, Coldplay, don't do this to us again. Next time insist that your album have great songs and that it be given a decent mix and mastering before it is released!
on June 30, 2012
So; what is driving the accusations that 'Mylo Xyloto' has fallen victim to the so called "Loudness Wars"? There is something to note about this CD that I'll get to momentarily.
First; I can honestly say that although attention to the "Loudness Wars" is justifiable I think there's a need for caution as witch hunts and finger pointing can shift a bit to the side of hysteria, leading to false accusations and misguided criticism and an attempt to deem yet again, proof to the evils of digital music. Such attention targeting the 'Mylo Xyloto' CD are many and at times harsh. To add (and not to offend), while I get (in general) the point many reviews attempt to make, posting misinformation can unintentionally confuses and dilute the source of real knowledge attainable on the Internet. To borrow a phrase from Newton Minow; making it a "vast wasteland".
In my audition of 'MX' (some details below), upfront; there is no signal distortion, only what was intended by the performers style for the album (note guitar, `old piano' track and the wet mix vocal tracks). The CD is very clean in that regard. To take my own advice (above), I sought out an expert to offer a few comments on the `MX' CD album. Bob Ludwig (of Gateway Mastering) not only is a principal and multi-awarded engineer involved on the mastering of 'Mylo Xyloto' but a legend among recording engineers and active speaker within the Audio Engineering Society.
Here are his comments:
"... I can only respond in general about mastering and not to the recording in question and you may quote me:
Mastering is the final step in the record making chain. While the final sound of the CD of course comes from the mastering stage, no listener can know what the difference is between the master mixes from the mix room and the mastered mixes from the mastering room without hearing and directly comparing them. The listeners, unless they are personally involved in the actual project, are never able to do this comparison. Thus one can never really know what was, or what was not done, in mastering. Sometimes the client supplies us with a master that needs nothing further done to it.
The purpose of mastering is to enhance the musicality inherent in the client's master mixes. If the mastering engineer enhances the sound to the client's tastes, then we have accomplished our raison d'être. It would be lovely if I DID get to solely determine how a recording was going to sound, like a dictator, but in the real world it simply does not work that way. Like every other mastering company, I am in the business of serving our clients wishes, tastes and musical vision. If we give the client something they are satisfied with, we usually get to work with them again at some point in their career.
Some famously loud recordings like Metallica's "Death Magnetic" were not crushed, at all, in mastering, it was mixed that way. It was issued the way the artists, producers and management wished it to be. If a listener does not like the way this or that sounds, please do not buy it. Sometimes an artist wishes to purposely have distortion in their music, and that is their prerogative.
All big-name acts have had their mastered music listened to very carefully and approved by everyone involved before being released. Often in mastering the recording is done several times to order to get that approved, sequences are experimented with, gaps between the songs are changed, the mixes are changed, the mastering sound is changed etc. etc. It is never a case of "send it once to mastering and that's what you get." The mastering engineer suggests and advises how the album should sound, but it is always the clients desires that gets released.
I personally prefer recordings in general with dynamic range, like the recent jack White "Blunderbuss" or the Glenn Frey "After Hours" albums. These days, it almost takes nerve to issue a record with dynamics, but "Blunderbuss" went to #1 on the Billboard charts and sounded fabulous on the radio. There are recordings I do that the client requests time and time again to make louder. I can point to some albums with 4 or many more revisions from what I initially thought was the musical "sweet spot", each revision being louder than the previous one per the client's tastes.
To repeat, especially when it comes to a big name artist, the recordings are exactly as the artist wishes them to be, and if you don't like it, then don't buy it.
Bob Ludwig" (end of quote)
I thank Mr. Ludwig for his comments and wish to also highlight, two before continuing: "... While the final sound of the CD of course comes from the mastering stage, no listener can know what the difference is between the master mixes from the mix room and the mastered mixes from the mastering room without hearing and directly comparing them. The listeners, unless they are personally involved in the actual project, are never able to do this comparison."; and also; "... when it comes to a big name artist, the recordings are exactly as the artist wishes them to be, ..."
As a professional unaffiliated with the 'MX' CD, I would support that most sound engineers (in general) ensure that care and expertise are part of the recording, mix, and mastering session and unwarranted criticism is likened to telling an airline pilot how to do their job. Knowing that the CD hasn't been squashed to hell as claims boast (maybe a little), I'll make a case in point; 'Charlie Brown' as tested. I measured musical peaks at -5.8dBu and -56dBu for lows at 00:03:50:20.0, with a total range of 50dB during a song high-point, which is very good (dynamic range). These days a mix can be so tight and/or complex that only minute alterations can be performed, leaving little that can be done in the mastering process. A CD like that may have limited playback ability in a home system with tonal control being global.
However; I'm attempting to identify the nature of the phenomenon at hand and look to the fundamental principles of gourmet cooking; you may have the finest ingredients but if there's not the right balance of 'presentation' and 'taste', well. For the 'MX' CD, lets say 'Sonic flavor' (on parts of 2 to 3 songs).
For those who may wish to add salt; try adding a Para-EQ of -1.8dB @ 3300Hz (Q=12) and -3dB @ 5325Hz (Q=9) for the songs `Charlie Brown' and `Major Minus'.
In concussion; I like the CD album (minus the artist's 'sonic flavoring' on 2-3 songs).
on March 9, 2012
This album is incredibly badly mixed for year 2012. Almost impossible to listen on anything other than the cheapest Walmart boombox. No matter how good the material is (which in fact is not their best), the sound engineering just killed it.
on February 17, 2012
I was pretty unhappy when I got this album. I hadn't heard any songs off of it yet, but it's Coldplay, and even though I wasn't a huge fan of Viva la Vida, it was still a good album, and it grew on me. This one however was not what I was hoping for. The style has changed too much for me. I've enjoyed every album less since the epic "A Rush of Blood to the Head". I'm not saying it's a bad album, or that there isn't quality there, but Coldplay has moved too far away from what I like. I'm not planning on buying a newer album until I've heard it from now on. Longtime Coldplay fans beware...do yourself a favor and take a listen first.
on March 9, 2012
Honestly don't like the direction Coldplay is going with this album.
it's overproduced and a bland.
While i enjoy artists that think out of the box - this album is just safe as a pillow.
on May 11, 2012
Awful mastering, overcompressed sound, don't buy it, it's a torture for your ears.
So sad for such a good music.
Viva la vida was already taking this way, but there it's really too much... Need a reedition with a suitable mastering.
on November 5, 2011
The music is fine but it's mixed and mastered so loud as to be considered defective. Frankly, their record company should be fixing it and offering an exchange. Distorted instruments are one thing. That's part of their character. Distorted mixes are a travesty. Sigh...