Artist: Coldplay Album: Kaleidoscope EP Year: 2017 Grade: B
In Brief: While I feel like this EP’s release was a bit overhyped, and I’m not inclined to trust rumors of the band having recorded their final album, there are some genuinely exciting new directions taken here that I’d love to see the band explore a little further… and also some embarrassing attempts at pop culture relevance that I wish they’d bury once and for all.
Artist: Mumford & Sons Album: Johannesburg EP Year: 2016 Grade: B+
In Brief: Surprisingly strong, given the unlikely collaboration between an English “folk” band and three stylistically divergent African artists. I still think Mumford & Sons are poseurs of a sort, wandering the world in search of a sound they can actually master, but this EP at least proves that they’re excellent collaborators.
Artist: Coldplay Album: A Head Full of Dreams Year: 2015 Grade: B-
In Brief: An enjoyably upbeat, albeit overly mushy and commercialized, record that I’d be willing to accept as a decent swansong if Coldplay actually followed through on their threat to call it quits after seven albums.
Artist: Florence + the Machine Album: How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful Year: 2015 Grade: B+
In Brief: A powerful set of pipes plus a talent for bringing together the best parts of indie rock, baroque pop, and soul music makes this a formidable set of songs. It’s only when Florence & Co. put the brakes on that the results start to feel a bit more generic, but even then, her vocal performance is sublime enough to get me through to the good stuff on the other side. (Interestingly, the deluxe edition’s bonus tracks offer a glimpse at stronger material that didn’t make the cut for whatever reason.)
In Brief: Modern day electronica-leaning Coldplay meets the “too meek and mellow to be bothered with a full-length album” Coldplay of olden times. I like the more ambient take on a stripped-down sound, but this album could use a little more meat on its bones.