Coldplay, Katy Perry and More New Releases

Chris Martin

Chris Martin of Coldplay performs live in London England. Simone Joyner/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Simone Joyner/Getty Images

Lizzie Goodman of Blender magazine reviews music from Coldplay, Katy Perry, and Wolf Parade.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MIKE PESCA, host:

If you are walking down the street with a boom box on your shoulder right now listening to the Bryant Park Project, you probably got a crowd around you that's broken into well choreographed dance steps. What you've created is threatening to destroy the sidewalk with its rhythmic audacity and funky perspicacity. There's a guy on yonder corner tearing out the definition of party from his dictionary because it doesn't say this exact moment right now.

Look, we don't want to stop you from electrifying the streets with your freakiness, but at some point, the people are going to want to hear some different tunes, some new music, but what's good? Luckily, Lizzie Goodman of Blender Magazine joins us now to answer that question. Hello, Lizzie.

Ms. LIZZIE GOODMAN (Music Critic, Blender Magazine): Hey, there.

PESCA: Thank you for bringing your boom box with you.

Ms. GOODMAN: Oh. No problem.

PESCA: First up on the boom box, Coldplay. The new album is long, at least the title is, "Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends." Coldplay is kind of a middle of the road band. Is this album good middle of the road, meaning something for everyone, or bad middle of the road, meaning dead armadillos?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GOODMAN: I think it's a little bit something - maybe more something for everyone than previous Coldplay efforts. You know, they've kind of had this reputation as the most mocked band of their particular generation, who continues to sell out stadiums and please people the world over, somehow, with their music.

And I like - this is the first Coldplay album that I actually genuinely like a little bit. Because I think that I don't feel this sort of resentment about how mainstream and kind of shiny and perfect it is. There's a lot of - it was produced by Brian Eno. There's a lot of kind of angsty, who are we, growing pains going on in the record. And I sort of appreciate that. It's like nice to see Coldplay kind of not just celebrating their perfectness all the time.

PESCA: All right.

Ms. GOODMAN: So a little bit of something for everyone in here.

PESCA: A fine analysis.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: Let's see if it holds up when we listen to some of Coldplay's "Violet Hill."

(Soundbite of Coldplay's "Violet Hil"l)

COLDPLAY: (Singing) Was a long and dark December From the rooftops I remember There was snow White snow Clearly I remember From the windows they were watching While we froze down below When the future's architectured By a carnival of idiots on show You'd better lie low...

PESCA: So I know - I can hear the Brian Eno. Every other Coldplay song starts off with the thumping piano, and then we're going to go into something nice, but for a second, there was the drr drrr guitar.

Ms. GOODMAN: It's a little rougher, yeah.

PESCA: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Ms. GOODMAN: Thank you, Brian.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: Thank you for the drr drrr.

Ms. GOODMAN: Thank you for this and all your accomplishments.

PESCA: There has been a lot of talk, too much talk, about this album being something of a referendum. It's been a referendum, maybe a referendum on a couple of things. One is the recording label's EMI, sort of the most screwed-up label out there. It was bought by this British millionaire, who looked at the expense accounts and said you will no longer be able to expense cocaine, for instance.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GOODMAN: The nerve!

PESCA: Yeah. He got into a lot of trouble. People are saying Coldplay is EMI's biggest band, maybe strong sales will indicate that EMI has a future. Is it fair to look for Coldplay to do that for their label?

Ms. GOODMAN: I know, right? Is Coldplay going to save the music industry? I mean, I don't know. No, it's not fair, of course not. But nothing about that - this has always been true about the music industry. That there's a couple of key artists at any particular label, whether it's EMI or anywhere else that sort of carry the rest of the artists that aren't really selling anything.

Because it's kind of a crapshoot. You get in there, and you don't really know what's going to appeal to people. And the bands that do, therefore, have to take, make most of the money. But they have most of the burden of keeping, you know, the really high overhead of record label expenditures in check for all these other bands that aren't selling anything.

So, yeah, you know, woe is me, poor Coldplay. They have to support the entire music industry. But at the same time, you know, this has been happening forever. I don't think that paradigm is particularly new in this era.

PESCA: There's another referendum aspect to this new Coldplay album. It was leaked a couple weeks ago. And there was a big debate, do leaks or bootlegs - you would think maybe the record for free instead of buying it, that could hurt sales. But there's actually plenty of evidence, like Lil' Wayne's album...

Ms. GOODMAN: I was just going to say, I mean, he's really revolutionized - what's happening with Lil' Wayne has kind of forced people to relook at that argument, which seems obvious. Like, if you get the album for free, you're not going to pay for it. But it doesn't necessarily, it's not that cut and dry. And some people say that there's a sort of sense of - especially if what you leak is good, there's a sense of anticipation for hearing more of it or for having your own copy. And sort of - I personally still really fetishize the actual ownership of an album, whether it's on vinyl, you know, or even a CD. I mean, I like to own it.

PESCA: Yeah because every time I buy it on iTunes, like one out of three times it disappears somehow.

Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah!

PESCA: And it's always like my fault.

Ms. GOODMAN: I know! I just had this...

PESCA: You know you didn't back it up three ways and put in on your computer.

Ms. GOODMAN: Or you're not on an authorized computer and you need to de - I'm like...

PESCA: Sorry, you only have five authorized computers. Really I have a CD. I can put it in any CD player.

Ms. GOODMAN: We're going to need special therapists to help us deal with all the iTunes errors that hit us.

PESCA: I know! It makes you feel really bad about mismanaging your own digital copyrights.

Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah, it's like, you know, getting calls from a creditor or something. You're like, I'm sorry. I didn't authorize the right computer.

PESCA: I know. It's always your fault. Give me the album, shut up.

Ms. GOODMAN: Yes.

PESCA: Or not, maybe, in the case of Katy Perry, unless you like the new album, "One of the Boys." You know, a lot of, I guess she's confusing to some people, you know? Is she annoying? Is she awesome? what do you think?

Ms. GOODMAN: Awesome!

PESCA: All right. You know, why?

Ms. GOODMAN: I really like her. I've been a fan for a while. I like her because I think, you know, too often there is sort of this line in the sand between what's popular, and therefore, that must suck because it's popular, and what's awesome, but nobody hears it or cares about it, but that makes it awesome. You know, that sort of old-school indie argument.

PESCA: Yes.

Ms. GOODMAN: And I don't really buy that. I think it's nice to see somebody who is kind of - who is involved in her own image in a very direct way and is obviously very mainstream, is having a lot of mainstream success, but is genuinely kind of provocative and weird within that mainstream context, which I think she is. I do see her as a little bit sort of Madonna-like provocateur. And I applaud that.

PESCA: Perhaps she will reinvent herself often, again.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: Her new song is "I kissed a girl." This is not the Jill Sobule song.

Ms. GOODMAN: No, and there's been some drama about that. There's been a lot of controversy about this song because, you know, it's a hit, and they're playing. It's number one on Z-100, and they're playing it all over America. Teenage girls in Middle America are learning about making out with other girls...

PESCA: Right.

Ms. GOODMAN: It's scandalous.

PESCA: Because they never heard of that...

Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah.

PESCA: Or saw four million commercials for Girls Gone Wild on every TV channel at night.

Ms. GOODMAN: Exactly, which is why it's kind of like I applaud Katy Perry for kind of owning that and not letting it be a boy's only sort of thing, you know. It's good.

PESCA: Kissing girls, you mean.

Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah.

PESCA: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: All right. Let's hear Katy Perry sing "I Kissed a Girl".

(Soundbite of Katy Perry's "I Kissed A Girl")

Ms. KATY PERRY: (Singing) This was never the way I planned Not my intention I got so brave, drink in hand Lost my discretion It's not what I'm used to Just wanna try you on I'm curious for you Caught my attention

I kissed a girl and I liked it The taste of her cherry chap stick I kissed a girl just to try it I hope my boyfriend don't mind it...

PESCA: Well, there's no more Lilith Fair anymore, but if there was, they'd have to book her to headline.

Ms. GOODMAN: That would improve Lilith Fair a lot. Yeah.

PESCA: What a bass. Yeah.

Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah. Good stuff.

PESCA: All right. Let's move on to the wolves.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: Wolf Parade. "At Mount Zoomer" is the new album?

Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah.

PESCA: The last album had a good name, like, what was it, "Apologies to the Queen Mary?"

Ms. GOODMAN: Something like that.

PESCA: They trashed the Queen Mary.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GOODMAN: Got a lot to atone for, apparently.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: There's a great quote I read about that, by the way. Wolf Parade's Spencer said we're not bad people. We're just not smart people.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: So here's the Wolf Parade, indie band from Montreal. Montreal is giving us a lot of interesting bands like Arcade Fire, though interestingly not Of Montreal. There are two alpha wolves in the Wolf Parade. There's Spencer Krug and there's Dan Boeckner. Between them, they have like 30 side projects. And so now, this is Wolf Parade coming together again. Do those two orteurs (ph) mesh with each other in this new album?

Ms. GOODMAN: Yes, they do. And I think that that sort of push and pull between two really strong leaders - obviously, in the history of music, that's worked out well. And I think it's working out well for them because there's a lot of richness to this record.

But what I really like about this band, and I've been sort of slow to come around to them because of exactly what you're talking about, the sort of influx of Montreal bands. And every day, some blog is telling you you have to like a new one, and I just kind of, sometimes, I feel like there's too much weirdness being disguised as quality. Like if I play a weird instrument, then that will somehow make my music interesting?

PESCA: Right. If it's a suite, if there are 30 instruments, you know?

Ms. GOODMAN: If it's like your kindergarten music closet, and you're playing it, then all of a sudden, you're really inventive.

PESCA: It's what I call glockenspiel cred.

Ms. GOODMAN: There you go! Oh, I like that. I'm totally going to steal that. That's great. Exactly. So, um, but Wolf Parade, happily, are not falling into that category. Even though they are weird, I guess you would say, and they do use a lot of sort of odd instruments, the songwriting at the heart of what they're doing is really strong. And if you took apart sort of the triangle or the xylophone or whatever, it would still be a really, really strong songwriting at the core.

And I think that comes from the contrast between these two people really just having very different approaches and influences and kind of battling it out and coming out with this kind of inspired product as a result.

PESCA: This is "Language City" from Wolf Parade.

(Soundbit of Wolf Parade's "Language City")

WOLF PARADE: (Singing) Language City is a bad, old place We all know Where eyeballs float in space We all know We were tired, we can't sleep It's crowded here, none of us leave

Language City don't mean a thing to me Audiences, the same program is always on I'd infer, it's best to avoid the law...

PESCA: That's "Language City." That's Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade. Not the Wolf Parade, Wolf Parade singing lead on that.

Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah.

PESCA: So Boeckner is one of the two big forces. The other one is his pal, Spencer Krug.

Ms. GOODMAN: Yes.

PESCA: It's contrast. You want to hear a little Spencer Krug song? OK, let's hear this.

(Soundbite of Wolf Parade's "Call It a Ritual")

WOLF PARADE: (Singing) Well into the desert you must go So into the desert we go Call it a ritual Call it whatever you will And you will grow out of me As naturally As branches from a tree Call it a ritual Call it whatever you will...

PESCA: "Call It a Ritual." Can you - so what are the differences between the two? Or is it more like a Lennon-McCartney thing, one is poppy, one is a little more in your face?

Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah, I mean, you know, yeah. I think that's sort of probably the most simple breakdown. But I don't know - again, I think what works about this is that they're the ones who really know what's different about the two of them.

PESCA: Yeah.

Ms. GOODMAN: Like what we hear is kind of a really successful mergence of their two styles. And I don't - personally, I haven't found that it's all that easy to kind of break them down and say oh, this is...

PESCA: A Spencer song, this is...

Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, maybe the sort of hardcore Wolf Paradeologist would disagree with me there. But what I like about - especially what I'm hearing on this record, is the mergence. I mean, it really feels like a cohesive sound, but it's - there's a lot - it's a tumultuous sound. There's a lot going on within it, and you can tell that there - it's not surprising after you hear that to realize that there's a couple of different people kind of battling it out with committed opinions in the studio.

PESCA: One last band to get to or recording artist. Well, the band is My Brightest Diamond. And Shara Worden, who's Sufjan Stevens' pal, has come out with this new album called "My Brightest Diamond." Are you a Sufjan fan?

Ms. GOODMAN: Not so much. But I like this. I like My Brightest Diamond.

PESCA: A little tweedy for you?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GOODMAN: Or maybe a little too much in that weirdness equals am I a performance artist or a rock star kind of problem that I have. But I get that he's talented. People who I respect very much enjoy him, so...

PESCA: That's so political of you.

Ms. GOODMAN: Thank you!

PESCA: Or maybe, you know, he's only come out with a few states, and he's going to do all 50. Maybe Wyoming and Hawaii will really cement it.

Ms. GOODMAN: Those are the ones that will really get to me, I think. Yeah, Wyoming, for sure. I'm waiting for Wyoming.

PESCA: So tell me why Shara Worden is a good thing.

Ms. GOODMAN: I just, I really like - again, I mean, not to sort of make the same point over and over again, but this is one of those artists where you're like, is this going to be too odd for me? And I'm going to think there's really nothing listenable here, even though I get that it's sort of creative and weird. But I just - I enjoy this music. It's very soothing and kind of introspective, and it's good for a rainy day.

PESCA: Well I want to do two things. The first is we want to queue up some of the music, this is My Brightest Diamond "Inside a Boy." And as we listen to that, I want to thank, Lizzie Goodman, who's the editor-at-large of Blender magazine.

Ms. GOODMAN: Thank you.

PESCA: All right, let's hear a little of this as we go out. And again, thanks Liz.

Ms. GOODMAN: Thanks for having me.

(Soundbite My Brightest Diamond's "Inside a Boy")

MY BRIGHTEST DIAMOND: (Singing) Our edges can never be found out No, our edges keep moving further out...

PESCA: That is it for this hour of the BPP. We are always online at npr.org/bryantpark. I'm Mike Pesca. This is the Bryant Park Project from NPR News.

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One of the Boys

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Viva la Vida

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At Mount Zoomer

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