Music to Your Ears – The 1975, American Authors, Panic! at the Disco and A Head Full of Dreams

So I found that I quite like this column, so I’m going to attempt to have it every Monday. This week we focus on three bands fronted by male vocalists: The 1975, American Authors and Panic! at the Disco.

In addition, I’ve written my first full album review within the column for Coldplay’s newest, A Head Full of Dreams.

Here’s what I thought:

The 1975Ugh!

 

The beat is a little obnoxious, but once the lyrics begin, The 1975’s first single for their upcoming sophomore album becomes a bit more enjoyable. The mixture of the melody and the outlandish background luckily blends and makes it much more danceable. The band’s first output had a similar feeling, and the lyrics are often dirtier than the groove implies. I’m satisfied with this and look forward to February 26, when their equally ridiculously titled I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It drops. I hope Taylor Swift approves!

American Authors – Pride

Similarly to Bastille, American Authors took radios by storm with mega-hit Best Day of My Life. Their new, unassuming single is still a bit more bombastic then you would expect from a poppy quartet out of Boston. Perhaps that’s why the band has caught on with top-40 stations: infectious lyrics on top of brilliant hooks and simple bass and drum can hit at just the right time. As I listen more to the song, I do notice a small fiddle strum underlying their typical beat, and I believe that’s what pushes Pride to the forefront. This should allow them out of one-hit wonder territory.

Panic! at the Disco – LA Devotee

This single appeared a few weeks ago, but as Panic! has been one of my favorite bands of the past decade, I decided to include it. The band has gone through rapid changes in the past few years, leaving only singer Brendon Urie as the final remaining member of the original lineup. Panic! has often seemed like Fall Out Boy-lite, but I’ve actually enjoyed their work much more. This newest single is no exception. The beat drives home how impassioned Urie is with the template of music as an artistic narrative. He often screams his feelings, but those have become more streamlined in recent hits. LA Devotee plays like a Bret Easton Ellis tale, spelling the fatality of youth enraptured with that golden city in the West, Los Angeles. Of their first three singles, I like LA Devotee the most – over ballad Victorious (which rivals FOB’s early 2015 hit Irresistible for best anthem) and the actually disappointingly typical Emperor’s New Clothes. Still, these songs give me hope that Urie’s first solo trip as Panic! at the Disco – Death of a Bachelor – will be one of my favorites of 2016.

Coldplay A Head Full of Dreams

This is the first time (only the second article) where I’ll be reviewing a full album. Much has already been penned over Coldplay’s final(?) album over the past few weeks as they slipped single after single through the airwaves. Here’s the final consensus from yours truly: The album starts off with a bang on the title track – as if we’re entering a concert hall where Chris Martin is already welcoming the crowd in to an inviting party for all the friends he’s had during his lifetime. The mood is exuberant, and continues on with the punchy Birds. Martin is on a road trip through the world and he wants everyone to join him. The first to come along for the ride is the Queen herself, Beyonce. Hymn for the Weekend is Coldplay at its bombastic best, which isn’t always for me. The song reminds me of latter Coldplay, and while I preferred the two previous songs for their flare and nostalgia towards a simpler time for the band, it’s fantastic that the band can invite the largest musical star in the world to join their album. In fact, I like her inclusion, despite it being nothing more than a flavor melody behind Martin’s vocals.

The album pauses its pace for a while, like they’ve discovered a beautiful rest stop in Everglow, which I covered just last week. The promises of the trip Coldplay is taking us on are fulfilled aptly with their first single, Adventure of a Lifetime. Easily the best track on the album, the hooky guitar riffs feel like something out of a 70’s version of U2. For a song entitled Fun, the somber and reflective mood permeating from the rhythm and lyrics implies that Chris Martin has turned over a new leaf since Gwyneth Paltrow. The song even recalls 2009’s Lost! from their best-selling album Viva La Vida. It’s great to see that the band is at least attempting to mix the eclectic sounds from previous albums. They may have become an arena band, but they at least remember their roots – or at least the music suggests that. Unfortunately, some of the worst traits Coldplay employs are exposed on the following track, Kaleidoscope. A classical piano intro smoothly warps into a spoken word track that almost seems too pretentious for the man who coined “conscious uncoupling”. Luckily the track is brief and is followed up by one of the better tracks, Army of One. A unique beat mutates into the chorus, where Martin meets back up with us with another grandiose idea of how great human beings are. Will Champion’s beats are subtle to start, but by the end (really in secret track X Marks the Spot), the electronic sound convinces you Coldplay has attempted to look into the future.

coldplay

Easily the most beautiful track on the album comes towards the end of the journey – Amazing Day. Simplistic in all of its elements, the song still lends itself an air of Coldplay grandeur. The song reminds me of the early days of the band, and with that I believe Martin finally brings the whole thing full circle. Guy Berryman and Jonny Buckland bring him home on Colour Spectrum, a cute albeit brief guitar splash of sparkle and sound. Up&Up concludes things for the band, and the almost 7-minute song makes the listener long for more from the departing foursome. The sweet melody underlies the sense of completion for the band. Hope flies off the band’s last lyrics:

Fixing up a car to drive in it again
When you’re in pain, when you think you’ve had enough
Don’t ever give up
Don’t ever give up

Really, the best thing to say about this album is that much like their sophomore (and best) album A Rush of Blood to the Head, this album is great to chill alongside and stare at the stars as they creep across the sky. Coldplay was always good at dreamy background music, as best exemplified by songs such as first album hit Trouble and Viva La Vida’s Strawberry Swing, both two of my favorites. Ignoring all their critics and massive comparisons to bands that had come before them – Chris Martin, Guy Berryman, Will Champion and Jonny Buckland embraced everything that came their way and produced six stellar albums that defined a decade and a half of British pop. A Head Full of Dreams will hopefully be a nice cap of a swan song for the group, as they enter their 40s on a new adventure of a lifetime.

Key Tracks: Amazing DayBirdsAdventure of a Lifetime

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