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Summer Music: 14 hot CDs

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Coldplay

COLDPLAY
VIVA LA VIDA

Three albums into their multiplatinum career, Coldplay have had a polarizing effect on music fans: Some praise the English quartet for their crescendoing lullabies; others scorn them as practitioners of mawkish, somnambulant tunes. ”I could walk down the street and get a handshake one minute — then spat at the next,” jokes frontman Chris Martin, 31. ”I’m never sure whether to wear gloves or a helmet.” Perhaps they won’t require either anymore, because the band decided to switch up that sound for their latest, Viva la Vida, by recruiting producer Brian Eno (U2), famous for his layered, textured soundscapes, which he added to their compositions. ”After a month of working with Brian, we literally forgot we’d ever had any records out,” says Martin. ”We were free.”

Hence the fresh addition of soaring riffs, Eastern rhythms (a result of their far-reaching travels), and ethereal group vocals. But freedom apparently meant leaving certain things behind as well — most significantly, Martin’s trademark falsetto. Says the singer, ”Between you, me, and all your readers, we’re slightly terrified about this record, because we’ve thrown away all our tricks. The truth is, we tried to find new ones.” (Scheduled release: June 17)

TRACK BY TRACK

”Violet Hill”
The My Bloody Valentine-meets-Elton John antiwar stomper is the first song released off Vida — just don’t call it a ”single.” ”We don’t really like that word,” says Martin. ”This isn’t our ‘Umbrella’…it’s [just] our first attempt at a protest song.” Albeit a radio-friendly one, thanks to the unapologetic aping of Beatles rhythms. ”It’s our little nod to them,” says Martin of the song’s title. ”Violet Hill is a street near Abbey Road.”

”Cemeteries of London”
Recorded in a Barcelona church, the album’s echoey second track sets Vida‘s somber tone and features the bandmates chanting in unison. ”When I imagine the song in my head, I see London in 1850,” says bassist Guy Berryman, 30. ”A hell of a lot of rain and men in top hats.” Adds Martin, ”Or when they were drowning witches in the Thames.”

”42”
”It’s a nod to U2’s ’40’ and the Smashing Pumpkins’ ‘1979,”’ cracks Martin, explaining this winding, three-act opus. ”I don’t think you can try to be the best band in the world without having a song that’s a number.”

”Lovers in Japan”
”No one associates romance with Japan,” says Martin of the song that most resembles the familiar wistful Coldplay style. ”Everyone thinks [the country] is just about Hitachi and neon signs, but every time we’re there, we see these amazing sunrises. It’s very sexy.”

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