Following the fairly insipid X&Y, the pressure was on Coldplay to remind us why we cared so much with Vida la Vida, their fourth studio album. They made it harder in the months leading up to its release by promising us that it would not only be their best yet but something of a reinvention.
It isn’t quite that; Martin sticks to some tried and tested Coldplay formulas, but with the help of new producer Brian Eno, he has produced the band’s best album since Parachutes.
Opening track Life in Technicolour is a tantalising opening salvo that is instrumental bar a few woo-woos towards the end. Lost is tailor-made for lighter-waving in a stadium, Violet Hill spells out the band’s shifting focus from the obvious to the bold, as does the rousing title track, Viva la Vida, a magnificent single that doffs its hat to U2’s Where the Streets Have No Name. The lyrics are unsurprisingly plain, but with so much wizardry at play from one of the world’s best songwriters, it hardly matters.
All great singer songwriters tend to have a good story. And Justin Vernon has one of the best. When his band broke up and his girlfriend left him, Vernon went to live in a remote cabin in a forest in North West Wisconsin to escape, live off the land and lick his wounds. Finding inspiration in the solitude, he set to work on a debut album, using makeshift recording equipment and playing all instruments himself.
He emerged as Bon Iver (an intentionally misspelt translation of the French Bon Hiver, meaning ‘Good winter’) three months later with a nine-track album, For Emma, Forever Ago, and had 500 copies made.
But when respected and notoriously miserly music review site Pitchfork.com gave the album 81%, it soon became clear he’d need a few hundred thousand, if not a few million, more. Now six months on, Vernon’s falsetto voice and heartbreakingly raw folk/pop has won him huge praise on both sides of the Atlantic, with both Mojo and Uncut magazine both awarding the album five stars and his tour diary booked up for the rest of the year.
Visit www.myspace.com/boniver for the sound that has set the critics’ hearts racing.