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Coldplay

Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends (Capitol/EMI)

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Coldplay's career is a lot like Barack Obama's presidential campaign: It's all about rejecting old frameworks — just replace "liberal vs. conservative" with "cool vs. uncool." Just as Obama succeeds by ignoring baby boomers' narcissistic squabbling, Coldplay's music — which was already plenty adventurous before Brian Eno showed up to produce Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends — floats blithely above arguments about the band's cred. Chris Martin and the other guys have sold millions of records, packed arenas, and now place themselves within their very own context: It's OK to like Coldplay, even if your boss and mom likes them too.

Viva La Vida is a step further down the road from 2005's X&Y, which was one step beyond 2002's A Rush of Blood to the Head. Coldplay advances incrementally — a big beat and some handclaps here ("Lost"), a cool honky-tonk piano there ("Lovers in Japan/Reign of Love"). But it all still sounds like Coldplay: melodic, emotive, and filled with a relatable, un-sappy optimism. Viva is a really good album. Nothing else matters.

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