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Music

SINGLE REVIEW: Coldplay's "Midnight"

Coldplay have been teasing out new material on soundtracks and the like, but this new fairly ominous track is unlike anything they've ever done before -- and it's the best thing that could ever happen to them.

Coldplay was pretty happy with 2011's Mylo Xyloto, an album that for all intensive purposes served as an expansion pack to the far-superior stylistic reset they did with 2008's Viva La Vida, turning piano recitals into multi-colored, heavily textured new sounds that still kept their warm pop aesthetic right in the forefront. Although Mylo produced hits, none of 'em were as big as Viva's world conquering epics, and despite selling out arenas, the hushed critical response to Chris Martin's wildly-varying lyric quality no doubt wore on the band.

So, after a lot of touring and relative silence, the first big preview of new Coldplay music, "Atlas" (from the Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack), was adequate at best: another piano ballad that went through the motions and struck all the poses, but didn't do much in terms of actual emotional impact, its pretty placid chorus not doing much aside from looping over the same tropes we've heard from the band many a time before. Some thought the band's stature was enough to garner them an Oscar nomination. Unfortunately for Coldplay's chances, the Academy actually heard the song.


Thus, the unexpected release of "Midnight" -- which was just barely barely confirmed as a song from their new album Ghost Stories -- is a bit surprising. Built around a composition by current critical fave Jon Hopkins, this mooody electro track takes a few vocal cues from Bon Iver, but the propulsive backbeat which kicks in around the 3:00 mark shows that the band might be hewing closer to modern Radiohead territory than anything else.

By keeping things in such a minimal environment, the chords themselves being kept simple and direct, the main melody shifts coming from Martin's voice, there's a great sense of drama that can be felt in the song's skeletal frame. Outside of the earnest ballads, Coldplay was never a band to play with negative space a whole lot, but the fact that they do it in such spectacular fashion is something worth noting. It's still pop -- there's a definite sense of melody that can be heard in the clicking pianos that chirp and that pulsating, shifting bass pad -- but it covers territory occupied more by indie-leaning electronic acts more than the FM radio groups that Coldplay normally rubs shoulders with. Martin's words are elliptical, talking about things swelling, lighting occurring, and lights being left on. There's no immediate center to the lyrics, but after Mylo's frequent attempts of Martin trying too hard, such elliptical notions not only marks an about-face for him, but also makes for surprisingly pointed listening.

In short, "Midnight" is great. Whether or not it's a one-off or a true indicator of their new direction remains to be seen. However, for a group that so obviously wants to be taken seriously, a move towards something this chilly, this moody, and this evocative actually may do exactly what they set out to do.

We're all ears, guys. The larger question now is: what else you got?

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Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and Woodstock each did their stint as a lonely Mexican cowboy, it seems. These and other things you didn't know about A Charlie Brown Christmas.

How Would You Like to Be the Director of Our Christmas Play?

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Bill Melendez answers questions with the sort of vigor that men a third his age invest thousands in herbal supplements to achieve. He punctuates his speech with belly chuckles and comic strip taglines like "Oh, boy!" and "I tell 'ya!" With the reckless abandon that Melendez tosses out words like pleasure, it's clear that 41 years after its premiere, A Charlie Brown Christmas remains one of his favorite topics of conversation. "It changed my life," he states simply, "being involved with this silly little project."

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From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

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It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

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Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

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