Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Disc #50: Coldplay (Viva La Vida)

Artist: Coldplay
Album: Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends
Released by Parlophone in 2008

This album came out shortly after another milestone in my life, the birth of my first child, Lily. Being a new parent, I spent lots of time at home in the first month or so, just being quiet and watching our new baby. This album was often the soundtrack of those moments.

Before I make the next few comments, I want to distinguish the difference between "favourite" and "best". Favourite is a much more subjective adjective, whereas best should be used as a more objective term (though it is still subject to subjectivity, if you will).

In my opinion, this album is by far Coldplay's best work. It has been masterfully composed, compiled, and produced. The songs are intellectually challenging, and if you know me, you are aware that that is a very positive comment. I bore easily of music that isn't challenging to listen to.

I also feel that the band has pushed its experimental limits further than before on this disc. I will give a portion of that credit to the production efforts of Brian Eno, who lent some musical support on X&Y, but has returned here as a co-producer. For all you fans out there, it is rumoured that he is helping produce Coldplay's next release, which should come out later this year.

There are so many highlights to this album, it's hard to know where to start. I can't even pick a favourite song. I think it's a toss-up between "Violet Hill" and "Lost". These two grabbed me the most at first. That being said, every track on this album is amazing. It really is a great joy of mine to put on this album.

If you are not yet a fan of Coldplay (and you all should be), I don't recommend starting with this album. You probably would like it, but as I mentioned earlier, it is challenging to listen to. It's best that you start from the beginning and work your way to Viva la Vida. By the time you get here, you will love it that much more.

As we near the end of the Coldplay reviews, I'd love to hear some feedback from you regarding this band. Do you have a favourite album or song? Does anything about Coldplay remind you of a certain time or event in your life? Do you have a crush on Chris Martin? Anything would be great. I'd love to hear more from the readers.

There are so many facets of this album that are amazing. I've been debating it for several days, but I've finally decided how to score it. On the Mike Jones Scale of Disc Awesomeness, I award this disc, for the very first time, a score of:


I was going to score it a 9.5, just as Parachutes, but it's just so much better in so many ways. I still think that Parachutes is my favourite, and I am more emotionally attached to it, but this album is just too brilliant to score any lower than 10. Well done lads.

Please join me next time as the experiment continues with our final review of Coldplay with Disc #51: Coldplay (Prospekt's March EP).

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Disc #49: Coldplay (X&Y)

Artist: Coldplay
Album: X&Y
Released by Parlophone in 2005

I always remember when this album was released because it was so close to our wedding. We were married on a Saturday, and it came out on the Tuesday following. Even though we were on our honeymoon, I insisted that we pick it up. Luckily, my wife is also a fan, so she was on board. One thing that my new bride was yet to learn about me was that I can listen to a new album over and over, for a very long time. By Thursday she had heard enough of it to last for months. As for me, I still can't get enough.

I find this album very similar to Parachutes in terms of its listenability; they are both very easy to listen to. Yet with every album, Coldplay seems to develop more and more. You can hear much more electronic elements on this album than its pre-decessors, especially on the first track, "Square One", which is one of my favourites.

As a newlywed, I was immediately captivated by the lyrics on "What If".

What if you should decide
That you don't want me there by your side?
That you don't want me there in your life?

It is said that you don't know what you've got till it's gone. This helped my meditate on how blessed I was to have what I did, and still helps me enjoy it to the fullest. Thank you Nora.

The first single off the album was "Speed of Sound", which I liked when I first heard it, but hoped that the album would have a little more to offer. It just reminded me too much of "Clocks". As I had hoped, it is, in my opinion, one of the weaker songs on the album. Another big hit was "Fix You". I loved this song from the beginning, but it will never sound the same again after seeing the documentary, "Young at Heart". Please watch this movie about a group of senior citizens in a choir whose director chooses music that is much younger than they are. You will never hear this song again without shedding a tear.

Once again, Coldplay has put out a masterful album. I really can't think of anything negative to say about it. So, it will receive a score of:


Join me next time as the experiment continues with Disc #50: Coldplay (Viva La Vida).

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Disc #48: Coldplay (The Scientist [single])

Artist: Coldplay
Album: The Scientist (single)
Released by Parlophone in 2002

I am fairly confident that this is the only single I have ever bought. I was browsing around in Wal-mart with some friends in Huntsville, Ontario. Like a good young lad, I took some time to peruse the CD rack. I didn't really have much money to spend at the time, nor did I really have my eye on anything in particular. Once I saw that I could spend a very small amount of money and add just a little bit more Coldplay to my collection, the next step was a no-brainer.

This disc consists of three tracks. The single, of course, was a huge hit. I will also make the point of adding that the music video to this tune may be one of the very best I have ever seen (and I saw a lot while I was in high school and had no social life).

In my opinion, the other two songs, "1.36" and "I Ran Away", really fit in well with the general sound and feel of "A Rush..." I understand that at some point you have to draw the line when you're recording tracks for a new album, but I think these could have slipped on there no problem. I especially like "I Ran Away". I wish it was on the album so I could listen to it more often. It has everything I love in a Coldplay song, and I recommend giving it a listen.

I'm not really sure how I should score this disc, since it's not a full-length album, or even an EP for that matter. In terms of listenabiliy (did I just make up a word?), I love it. However, its total value is somewhat limited due to its length. Therefore, I feel somewhat obligated to bump this score down to a:


Trust me, if it was longer, it would be right up there with the others.

Please join me next time as the experiment continues with Disc #49: Coldplay (X&Y).

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Disc #47: Coldplay (A Rush of Blood to the Head)

Artist: Coldplay
Album: A Rush of Blood to the Head
Released by Parlophone in 2002

Welcome back to the Jones Experiments as we continue reviewing Coldplay with their second release, "A Rush of Blood to the Head". If you're just tuning in, I'm working my way through listening to my entire CD collection, and reviewing each disc as I go. If you want to read what I had to say about Coldplay's first release, "Parachutes", click here.

When this album was released, my friends and I were so excited. I don't remember being this excited for an album to be released at any other time (except maybe for when John Mayer's "Continuum" came out in 2006). I explicitly remember the first time I heard the first single from the album, "In My Place", on the radio. We were picking corn in Tillsonburg, Ontario, and I think I made everyone stop working so I could hear the tune properly. I loved it at once and couldn't wait for the album to be released.

The day that it came out, someone was going to town for lunch and it seemed like everyone handed out cash for a copy of the disc. She may have come back with 6 albums, and we couldn't get to the car fast enough at the end of the day to give it a listen together.

Upon hearing the first few bars of "Politik", I didn't really know what to think. This album certainly is heavier, more electric, and a littler darker than the first, so I think that it caught me off guard at first. Of all their releases to date, I would say that this one took me the longest to warm up to. That being said, it is phenomenal.

You take all the elements from "Parachutes" that made that album great, then you just let it mature a little bit, add some more electric guitar, and you have yourself a dynamite sophomore album. When "Clocks" was released as a single, I felt like I was hearing it everywhere I went; television, radio, movies, advertisements... you name it. The album is just packed with hits like that.

The one thing that has always bothered me a little bit about "Parachutes", how short it is, was redeemed on this disc. It has one more track than its predecessor, and the songs themselves play out a little longer.

At the end of it all, I think that I am still a little more emotionally attached to their first album, but that doesn't change the fact that I would listen to this disc pretty much any time. Thus, I have no problem at all handing out a score of:


Join me next time as the experiment continues with Disc #48: Coldplay (The Scientist [single]).

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Disc #46: Coldplay (Parachutes)

Artist: Coldplay
Album: Parachutes
Released by EMI Records in 2000

I was fleeting with the idea of not even listening to this album before writing the review, only for the fact that I know it so well. It is possibly the most listened-to album in my collection (unfortunately, I haven't kept track of that sort of thing over the years, as I would love to have those stats handy). Since I love it so much, the obvious decision was to listen to it, and it has made me realize what a fool I would have been not to. If you have this album in your possession, listen to it any chance you get.

To the reader: as one of my most listened-to albums, this could also be one of the longest reviews to date. Now that I've included the disclaimer, let's start at the very beginning; the first time I heard their big hit off this record, "Yellow", on the radio. I loved it right away, but who was this band? I initially wrote them off as a no-name group with a catchy hit and a career that would never get off the ground.

It wasn't until about six months later that I heard more from them. A few of my corn picking buddies had the album, and it frequented the CD player that summer (2001). I fell in love with the album quickly, and it wasn't long before I purchased it myself, not that I really needed to own it, because I heard it all the time. However, I just wanted to have it for myself. In those days, I always went to sleep with music on. For the next few years, it was always a toss-up between "Parachutes" and John Mayer's "Room for Squares" as to which album would lull me to sleep that night.

Now on to the music. My first suggestion is to listen to it yourself before reading the review. I think you'll be able to appreciate it more if you do. If you already have it, put it on right now. If you don't have it, go get it, download it (or however you Internet thieves do things these days) or borrow it from me. I'll wait until you do that.

Seriously, go do it now, then come back an read this. It will still be here when you get back, so just do it.

I'm not joking. Listen to this awesome album. Trust me, it will be worth the time and resources spent acquiring the disc.

See? You're welcome. Now we can talk about the music together. It's much more beneficial for you this way. The first track, "Don't Panic", was my favourite for a long time. I love the way it fades in, and totally sets the tone for the rest of the album at very least, if not the musical style of the band for albums to come.

Three things are heard in this first song that remain evident through the rest of the album and are signature Coldplay sounds:

1) Simple guitar or piano rhythms
2) Ambient or atmospheric electric guitar sounds
3) Chris Martin's utilization of his falsetto range

Not to give too much away, but this is what will become the foundation for almost everything that Coldplay produces over the next ten years of their career. This is very significant as I believe that the success and longevity of a band in today's musical climate has much to do with that group's ability to adapt to current musical trends while maintaining some sort of common thread from album to album. If you look at the plateau of success that Coldplay sits on right now and think about how many other bands are up there with them, you can see that this is something that not many are able to accomplish. This first album, from the first note to the last, set them off in the right direction.

Every track from here to the end is solid. There's not one that I don't enjoy listening to. They are well-written, exhibiting musicality both in the rhythmic arrangements and the lead and melodic components. I think that almost every song has been my favourite on the album at one point in time or another. The recording and production value is also of very high quality.

One thing I love about Coldplay is the way that you can hear the influence of each of the musicians as the songs are played. For example, I love the bass playing in the chorus of "Sparks". This song would have been great without this nice touch, but it's probably the part of this song that I will audibly sing along with the most. In many ways, that added touch is what makes the song as great as it is.

I feel like I could review each song in detail, but I will spare you that. However, I will comment on one more track, and that is the secret track, "Life is for Living". I love this song and think that it really caps off the album well. I still don't understand what the deal is with secret tracks on albums. If it's a real song, and not just some silly or creative bit of recorded material, then just call it a track and have it on the album. Perhaps it's some sort of political thing with record labels that restricts artists to a certain number of official tracks based on a contractual agreement. Who knows. All I know is that this song fits right in with the album and I consider it to be just as much a part of the disc than any other tune.

In conclusion, there's so much more positive criticism that I could add regarding this album. The only negative thing that I would say about it is the length. Coming in at about 41 minutes, it makes for a shorter album. That being said, perhaps the length is just right. If an album is made to be too long, it can just become redundant, repetitive, and redundant. Still, I always want more when it's over. Usually, I just listen to it again to remedy my craving.

Well, I'm very excited to have reviewed this album, and look forward to reviewing several more Coldplay albums next. Now for the rating. I give this album a score of:


I know I haven't given out a 10 as of yet, but I'm still very hesitant to do so. I was fairly lenient with the scores when the experiment began, and I'm still trying to curb that trend. Still, I feel that this album deserves more than a 9 as it is one of my all-time favourites. There may be a 10 just yet...

Please join me next time as the experiment continues with Coldplay's sophomore recording on Disc #47: Coldplay (A Rush of Blood to the Head).

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Disc #45: Bruno Mars (Doo Wops & Hooligans)

Artist: Bruno Mars
Album: Doo Wops & Hooligans
Released by Elektra Entertainment Group in 2010

I got this CD for my wife this Christmas, and I decided early on in the experiment that if I acquired any discs during the experiment that should have already been reviewed (alphabetically speaking) I would deal with them right away so they don't get left behind. Hence, we are back in the Bs. However, we would have had to wait until the Ps if Mars went by his real name, Peter Gene Hernandez. I think he made the right choice.

There are a few things to be said about Mr. Mars regarding this album. First of all, the guy does have an amazing voice, with quite a range in the top end. Second, he writes all his songs, which is always impressive, and has written some famous songs for others as well. Keep your eye out for him at the Grammys this year.

The general feel of the album is light and poppy, with some reggae sounds on a few of the tracks. Some of the songs I really enjoy, while others are just the soundtrack to a world of pop that's out there.

It sort of reminds me of John Mayer's first album, "Room For Squares". It was a great album, but it was pop music. After that album, John Mayer blossomed into something much larger than many had anticipated. I could see that happening to Mars. In my opinion, this album is comprised of a collection of concise pop tunes that don't thrill, but there is loads of potential lurking beneath the surface of this performer.

Overall, it doesn't blow me a way, but it's a good listen. I'm very curious to see what next for Mr. Hernandez. Thus, I will give it a score of:


Join me next time as the experiment continues with Disc #46: Coldplay (Parachutes).

Friday, January 14, 2011

Disc #44: Benny Goodman (The King of Swing)

Artist: Benny Goodman
Album: The King of Swing
Released by Sugo Music & Design/ Sony Music Entertainment in 1998

This disc was mixed in with the "Cs" in my collection, so yet again we're back into the "Bs" with Benny Goodman. This album is a compilation of some of his greatest hits. This clarinetist, songwriter and bandleader is considered to be one of the most influential jazz artists of all time, especially when the popularity explosion of jazz music in the late 1930's is considered.

When I listen to this album, I feel like I could get a date with any 90 year-old woman I choose. It's just empowering that way.

Honestly, I don't know what else to say. The guy was awesome, the music is entertaining and relaxing all at the same time. If you like it, you know what I'm talking about. If you've never heard it before, you probably never will and don't care. So enough said, on THE MIKE JONES SCALE OF DISC AWESOMENESS, this album gets a solid:


which in my opinion is just as good, if not better than a sloppy 6.

Please join me next time as we take our last listen (hopefully) to the Bs with Disc #45: Bruno Mars (Doo-Wops & Hooligans).

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Disc #43: Christina Aguilera (Back to Basics - Disc 2)

Artist: Christina Aguilera
Album: Back to Basics (Disc 2)
Released by Sony BMG Music Entertainment in 2006

Welcome to the second installment of Christina Aguilera's "Back to Basics". As I mentioned in the review of the first disc, I like this second disc the least of the two. If any of the entire album is a concept album, it's this disc. It seems to tell the story of the rise to fame and the consequences that follow, both positive and negative. I find it dark, overtly sexual and a much harder listen that the first disc. Although this doesn't always entail a bad album to follow, I will explain why I don't like it.

As far as story goes, it flows as a story should; beginning, middle, end. Musically, however, I get lost from one song to the next. Furthermore, I find it very dark. On some albums, this is great, and can be very powerful. On this disc, I didn't find that it enhanced the story that much. The sexual content just seemed to be indulgent, and almost silly at times. Maybe it doesn't bother everyone, but for some reason, it bothered me.

Perhaps I just couldn't get into this disc. After all, the first disc is really catchy, and this one requires a little more intense listening (but not that much more). I give it a score of:


Join me next time as the experiment continues with a trip back into the swing era on Disc #44: Benny Goodman (The King of Swing).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Disc #42: Christina Aguilera (Back to Basics - Disc 1)

Artist: Christina Aguilera
Album: Back to Basics (Disc 1)
Released by Sony BMG Music Entertainment in 2006

After an extended break, it's great to be back folks. Life is very good, but very busy. I don't know how long it will last, so let's enjoy the ride while we're on it.

The next disc to review is the first off of Aguilera's 2006 double-disc release, "Back to Basics". I don't know if I would go as far as to call this a concept album, although there are some recurring themes throughout. Aguilera's idea for the album was to pay tribute to some of the greats of the jazz and blues era. This is heard through the sound of contemporary R&B and hip-hop beats, blended with classic sounds such as horns and samples of recordings from that era.

This feel really comes through on the album. Without giving too much about the second disc away, I like this one much more. The songs are catchier and it flows much nicer. I think that the first disc could stand alone as an album by itself.

One of the highlights is of course the huge hit-single "Ain't No Other Man". This is a great tune, and even though it was majorly over-played, I still bop along to it. My personal favourite is "Back in the Day". This song is the literal personification of the tribute to the heroes of the music industry. It includes loads of samples and is really fun to listen to. As some names are being spoken during the intro, you can hear Christina say the name of her own personal inspiration, Etta James.

This isn't the type of disc I would typically throw on for a good listen, but it was entertaining and well produced. It's also a lot of fun, and she should have stopped with these tracks. I will give it a score of:


Join me next time as the experiment continues with Disc #43: Christina Aguilera (Back to Basics - Disc 2).