Promoting quality music in Knoxville … by any means necessary.
Knoxville music fans, as you know, our Free Music Friday offerings are rarely (as in never) limited to merely two performers. That’s just typically not the way we roll. We like to give 120%, because 110% just isn’t good enough. However, this is an exceptional week. Exceptional because there are two fresh new studio releases by two of the biggest behemoth acts in the popular music business these days – Coldplay and Florence + The Machine. We love both of these groups … but absolutely Flo just a little mo’! So this week for Free Music Friday, we will pull the ripcord on two monsters – Mylo Xyloto by Coldplay and Ceremonials by Florence + The Machine. Enjoy!
Paradise, Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall, Charlie Brown, Major Minus and Don’t Let It Break Your Heart by Coldplay – People, you just can’t deny the magnitude of Coldplay. Regardless if you are a fan, the band is shoulder to shoulder with Radiohead and U2 in terms of being the biggest, baddest bands on the block. Mylo Xyloto was released on October 24 and sold 447,000 albums in the first week of distribution. We think the album is strong, top to bottom. And in case you are wondering, the album title is pronounced my-lo zy-letoe. So there you go.
1. Mylo Xyloto
2. Hurts Like Heaven
4. Charlie Brown
5. Us Against the World
7. Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall
8. Major Minus
10. Princess of China
11. Up in Flames
12. A Hopeful Transmission
13. Don’t Let It Break Your Heart
14. Up with the Birds
And what everyone else is saying about Mylo Xyloto –
[Lead vocalist Chris] Martin says Mylo Xyloto was inspired by 1970s New York graffiti and the Nazi-resistance movement known as the White Rose – it’s probably no coincidence both were about young people embracing art in times of turmoil. Here, Coldplay rage in their own lovably goofy way. On the rave-tinged “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall,” Martin imagines a revolution powered by dancing kids. “Hurts Like Heaven” might be the first Coldplay tune to which you can bust something resembling a move. The lyrics seem to be about fighting the Man – “Don’t let ‘em take control!” – but Martin sounds ebullient over a sproingy New Wave beat.
On Mylo Xyloto, the choruses are bigger, the textures grander, the optimism more optimistic. It’s a bear-hug record for a bear-market world.
While retaining the studio services and crucial cosign of Brian Eno, it’s a relief that their most carefully thought-out work initially sounds less ambitious than Viva La Vida, a record whose orchestral and political bombast felt at the very least a necessary act of aggressive rebranding. Mylo Xyloto is brighter in both attitude and especially timbre, sleeker, more emphatic and up to the task of being a capital-E Event. Though their collaboration with Rihanna on “Princess of China” makes it all the more explicit, when you’re at Coldplay’s level, pop acts are your competition and Mylo places itself in a lineage of ultra-mainstream rock records spanning from Born in the U.S.A. to Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix– swaddled in synths and gilded by state-of-the-art production, but never too off-putting if you still insist that “real music” is played by men with guitars.
These are the moments I think about when people lament the lack of a monoculture– so often we speak of indie bands that “should be huge” and songs that “could be hits” in an alternate universe. But with “Teardrop” and “Hurts Like Heaven”, there’s a thrill of knowing these songs can, should, and will be on the radio that you just can’t recreate. With all due respect, while M83 shoot for a similar extroverted exhilaration on Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming– the penultimate electro rush of “Don’t Let It Break Your Heart” proves both bands are ever closer to intersecting– the idea that it could fill arenas still involves wishful thinking. It’s still one man’s project, whereas Coldplay was built for this from day one. It shouldn’t matter, but it does– while so many bands at their status revert to bloated contentment or some vague idea of rockist salvation, Mylo Xyloto finds Coldplay successfully continuing to explore the tension of wanting to be one of the best bands in the world and having to settle for being one of the biggest.
Only If For A Night, Lover To Lover, What The Water Gave Me, No Light, No Light, and Seven Devils by Florence + The Machine – It is no secret that at knoxmusictoday.com, we are big fans of Florence + The Machine. I mean HUGE fans of Flo. We were a bit late to the party for the first album, Lungs, but once we got on board, we were all in. Our recommendation is to purchase the Deluxe Edition of Lungs, people. Well worth the extra dough. Now onto Ceremonials. 2011 has been a long year of anticipation for this album. We saw Florence at Bonnaroo and loved the show. Then we found out that a new album was in the works. Ceremonials was released on Tuesday of this week and we have been listening to it constantly since then. Following up the blockbuster of Lungs provided a challenge for Florence + The Machine, but we feel confident that fans of the first album will be big fans of release number two. If anything, the voice and the music are even more powerful on Ceremonials than on Lungs. And that is saying something. This album is all that and a bag of chips, people. But as always, at knoxmusictoday.com, we would rather that you judge for yourself.
1. Only If for a Night
2. Shake It Out
3. What the Water Gave Me
4. Never Let Me Go
5. Breaking Down
6. Lover to Lover
7. No Light, No Light
8. Seven Devils
11. All This and Heaven Too
12. Leave My Body
And what everyone else is saying about Ceremonials –
Lungs was about a boyfriend she [Florence Welch] got together with around 2005. “We knew each other through friends.” His name was Stuart and he worked in a bookshop; Welch fell in love. By mid-2008, the relationship was over, and Welch was distraught. With her friend and musical collaborator, the producer Isa Summers, she holed up in Summers’s small London recording studio.
They’d both been “messed around by boys”, Summers has recalled, “and we’d lock the doors and turn the sound system up and listen to Madonna”. They wrote, too, sitting back to back in the tiny space, composing music, Welch tells me, “on a £100 Yamaha keyboard and half a stolen drum kit”. They were angry, they were often hungover (it was around now Welch woke up as Captain America on a pub roof), and they recorded some career-shaping tracks.
“Enthusiasm over skill,” says Welch, who can’t read music very well, has only a self-taught half-grasp of the piano, and came up with the irresistible skewwhiff drumbeat for “Dog Days” by bashing her hands against a tea tray. “I’m quite glad I never learned to play the guitar, because I think I’d write songs that were more classically structured. As it is, I’ve had to create my own way of writing, which isn’t typical. Everything’s a big crescendo.”
On the new album, Ceremonials, one of the standout tracks is an introspective ballad called “Lover to Lover”, in which Welch sings about “losing sleep… setting myself up for a fall”. Is that what it’s like, I ask, producing a smash album and then trying to do it again? Welch, hunched, sipping, nods vigorously. “I’ve been given such amazing opportunities. And it can feel like I’m definitely gonna manage to completely fuck it up.”
She’ll be fine with Ceremonials. My nerves, if any, are that fans of Lungs, that great dossier of discontent, must have been fans of its fury, its tartness. And on Ceremonials, Welch sounds really quite chuffed. Track one kicks off with a muffled giggle. By track five’s foot-tappy harpsichord twangs, the mood is absolutely jaunty. The video for recent single “Shake It Out” even cast a giddy-looking Florence in the middle of a game of blind man’s buff.
“I think the first album feels almost desperate. Being really desperate for someone. I was definitely in a more settled place for the second, which was helpful for my concentration because I wasn’t, like, crying all the time.”
More settled, in part, because she was back with her chap. She and Stuart, the villain of Lungs, patched things up not long after that album was released. Welch has been very funny, in the past, about the “erm, sorry” moments they went through together as her singles trickled out in 2009 and 2010. We all know what it’s like to make incautious comments about an ex, our own or someone else’s, and the awkwardness that follows should that break-up be reversed. Welch’s thoughts on the jilting came blasting out every day on the radio.
For every harp glissando, choral incantation, hammering drum, celestial dalliance, unselfconscious moment of sincerity, and most of all, nod backward, Ceremonials is at its core a stellar pop album draped in exquisite and perplexing cloths. Naked underneath is a major new Artist who is worthy of that capital A. Her remarkable new album is too.
And you can’t have Florence without videos -
Here’s Howl from Lungs at Bonnaroo 2011
And at the Glastonbury Music Festival, a cover of the classic and certainly a knoxmusictoday.com favorite, Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain