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Coldplay was once an unassuming (and better) indie-leaning band

In Hear ThisA.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing.

I kind of enjoy defending Coldplay to those who know the band only from a couple of big radio singles—or worse, only from Chris Martin’s famous bride (rhymes with Shmenith Shmaltrow) or pals (H to the Izzo). The band has released a string of solid albums that tickle the part of my fancy that enjoys big, mainstream alt-rock (and that can’t abide Bono in any form). With the exception of 2005’s mostly lousy X&Y, the band’s catalog is solid, and I’d rather hear its songs every day of the week than, say, Smash Mouth. But go back to Coldplay’s first album, 2000’s Parachutes, and it ought to be possible for even snobs to enjoy the now-massive band. 

I’d recommend starting where the band did: side one, track one. “Don’t Panic” is a melancholy bit of nothing at all, but I find it incredibly affecting nonetheless. It’s a slight thing, clocking in at just over two minutes on the album (over three in this weird/bad animated video, which adds sound effects at the beginning), but it conjures a complex bit of emotion. Coldplay would ride a similar formula—combining melancholy with a bit of blind optimism and some excellent vocal hooks—throughout Parachutes and well into A Rush Of Blood To The Head, but it all starts here, with a gorgeous little sketch of a song. Sometimes simple is best, and it’s certainly a great place to start.