On their eighth studio album, Coldplay have made a record that embraces the past while still keeping most of its heart in the present. The double album entitled Everyday Life is broken into two chapters, in “Sunrise” and “Sunset,” and paints a picture of a band with plenty of tricks still up their sleeves. Every detail of this album seems carefully crafted, right down to the artwork mirrored on both the top and bottom. Chris Martin and his bandmates could have made a record in the same vein of their last effort, A Head Full of Dreams, but that’s simply not in Coldplay’s DNA to be complacent with what they have done before. Instead, we are left with 16 songs that sound simultaneously immediate, current, and creative.
Starting off the record with the introductory instrumental track, “Sunrise” helps with setting the overall tone for the stylistic changes that Coldplay were going for on Everyday Life. This track quickly blends into “Church,” a song that reminds the listener of the beauty of vintage Coldplay: brilliant vocals, carefully placed synths, and well thought out instrumental sections. Martin introduces the work of art as he croons on the first verse, “What can I tell you? / When I’m with you, I’m walking on air / Watching you sleeping there, yeah / But what can’t I get through? / When for everyone, everywhere / You’re answering every prayer.” Martin uses religious imagery as a metaphor as a way of stating that he finds this person as his moral compass at this point in his life.
Things take a turn towards the serious abruptly on “Trouble In Town,” that mixes a scenario of a police altercation in the midway point of the song that feels as real as it ever could in today’s divided world. The crescendo of instruments by the time the police turn violent towards the individuals at a traffic stop is as powerful as it is sickening to realize these situations are still happening in the present day more often than we could ever imagine.
“BrokEn” follows the dramatic track with a gospel choir and a piano-based song that finds Martin taking turns with the choir on each line. It serves the purpose of breaking the tension from the difficult subject lines of the previous song while still showing a glimmer of hope moving forward. The gospel-esque song then transitions to another piano-based ballad of “Daddy.” The song is beautifully composed and sounds like something that would have fit in on the earlier Coldplay records just as well as this LP.
The first half of the record features some other experimental songs such as “WOTW / POTP” that is just Martin and an acoustic guitar. The song didn’t do much for me, but the following track and current single, “Arabesque,” has a pretty cool vibe and beat throughout. From the well-placed horns and electric guitar elements, the track clicks along, and the record begins to take on a new life of its own. It’s one of the more experimental songs that Coldplay have written this decade, and they have never really been strangers to taking these risks.
Set one closes out with another song that feels like it could very well be a hymnal, with the haunting “When I Need A Friend.” The religious tones are used here as a way to balance the political themes that are prevalent throughout the record, as well as serve as a way to find something to hold onto as a sense of hope.
The “Sunset” portion of the record kicks off with the politically loaded song, “Guns” where Martin confidently sings, “Take it from the playgrounds and take it from the bums / Take it from the hospitals and squeeze it from the slums / All the kids make pistols with their fingers and their thumbs / Advertise a revolution, arm it when it comes / We’re cooking up the zeros, we’ve been doing all the sums / The judgment of this court is we need more guns.” It’s clear that Martin has just about had it with the lack of action on the part of US members of Congress on the gun issue, and he sees little hope on the horizon on this particular issue. It’s a powerful summation of the current political climate, as it seems like the idiocracy of the situation gets more bizarre by the day.
“Orphans” was the lead single from the set, and for a good reason: it’s the closest thing on the album to the version of Coldplay that we have come to expect over the better part of this decade. The song features some backing vocals from a child-led choir and soars to the heights we have come to expect from the band. Other songs on the back-half such as “Eko” and “Cry Cry Cry” are suitable, but the latter came across as a bit forced. “Cry Cry Cry” attempts to sound like a track from the Motown-era of songs; however, it never really clicked for me.
Luckily for us, the record gets back on track with “Old Friends.” The song feels like a working man’s effort of stripping out all the outside noise and distractions and creating a song that is simple, yet elegantly beautiful. There is something to be said about the simplicity of an acoustic guitar and powerful vocals that can showcase the brilliance and prowess of a songwriter like Chris Martin. As much as Ghost Stories sounded like a Martin solo record, Everyday Life feels like a record that would have been a more logical follow-up to that album. By that, I’m referring to the number of songs that sound like they were entirely composed or written by Martin or, at the very least, are from his point of view.
The closing duo of “Champion of the World” and the title track solidified this album as being one that is worth writing about, noticing, and listening to for the foreseeable future. Coldplay have always been at their best when they allow the music to flow through them through the lens of what is going on around us. The world is a pretty ugly place right now, but Coldplay tries their best to take it all in stride and find a way to make a beautiful artistic statement to serve as an appropriate endcap for this wild decade.