The Week in Music: Coldplay to Its Own Defense, Silver Jews Still Sober, and the Return of Ice Cube

Coldplay’s Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends comes out today. That’s about as big as record-release news gets nowadays. But more importantly for the band, on Sunday, the album hit No.1 on charts in the U.K., where it was first released last Thursday, selling more than 300,000 copies in three days. Then there’s that ubiquitous iTunes commercial featuring the album’s title track. Yup, everything was going smoothly for Coldplay—that is until some Brooklyn band no one’s ever heard of accused them of stealing one of its songs!

The band in question is called Creaky Boards. (Sound familiar? We didn’t think so.) In a sort of hilarious video posted to YouTube (see above), its hipster-moustache-bearing songwriter/vocalist Andrew Hoepfner claims that Coldplay’s front man, Chris Martin, saw and enjoyed Creaky Boards’ CMJ performance in October of 2007, and that Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida” sounds suspiciously similar to his own tune, “The Songs I Didn’t Write.” What an appropriate title! But not necessarily one that holds any truth for Coldplay. According to reports, band members have declared that it would have been impossible for them to rip off Creaky Boards’ song because, a) “Viva la Vida” was written and demoed about half a year before Mr. Martin allegedly attended their CMJ gig; b) Mr. Martin wasn’t even at the gig!—he was in London’s Air Studios at the time.

Is this just a case of a no-name band trying to get some A-list music press? If that’s the case, it seems like they’ve succeeded. (At least for now.) You can compare “The Songs I Didn’t Write” with “Viva la Vida” below.

Viva la Vida – Coldplay

That brings us to Nashville’s Silver Jews, the country-tinged indie rock outlet for writer David Berman that was also once a side project of Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus. Today on Drag City, the band releases Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea, its first album since 2005’s Tanglewood Numbers. In 2003, at the tail end of a nearly two-year descent into substance abuse and depression, Mr. Berman reportedly attempted suicide by downing a Xanax-crack cocaine-alcohol cocktail. As the Village Voice recalls, he famously tried to end it all in Nashville’s Vanderbilt Hotel—which was where Al Gore hunkered down during the 2000 recount—“professing to a bellboy that he wanted to die where the presidency did.” But now Mr. Berman is all cleaned up and sober, and the Silver Jews have been touring up a storm. (They just got back from a stint in Europe.) In his very personal June 10 review in the Voice of Look Out Mountain, Lookout Sea, critic Mike Powell ponders what that means for Mr. Berman:

It means stability. It means being able to have a wife, Cassie, who has moved increasingly to the fore as a vocalist, instrumentalist, and songwriter since Bright Flight. And for his fans/disciples—a clot of sad men in their early twenties to mid-thirties—it means an acceptance of same. It means standing shoulder to shoulder while the guy who had always condoned their melancholy sings, with the barest glint of effort required to dignify a tune, about all he’s learned from accepting happiness.

So wipe that tear dry as you listen to the uplifting opening track, “What Is Not But Could Be If.”

What Is Not But Could Be If – Silver Jews

There are so many animal band names these days it’s hard to keep track. Case in point: Montreal’s experimental indie popsters Wolf Parade were born out of a band called Frog Eyes, but they’re not to be mixed up with the similarly named Detroit psyche-noise outfit, Wolf Eyes, who are on the same label—Sub Pop—as Wolf Parade. A bit confusing, no? But only Wolf Parade, whose first show was an opening ticket for the Arcade Fire, has a new album out today. It’s called At Mount Zoomer and it sounds all happy and dreamy, and you can hear some of the songs live on July 31 and Aug. 1 at Terminal 5.

The Grey Estates – Wolf Parade

Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that Ice Cube releases his ninth solo album, Raw Footage, today. In recent years, you’ve probably seen more of Ice Cube on the B-rate movie circuit than on your iPod. But the gangsta rap icon still has it in him: He recently announced a one-off concert set for July 14 at London’s Electric Ballroom. Otherwise, be on the lookout for a possible starring role in the yet to be announced, Last Friday Before the Friday After Next.

It Takes A Nation – Ice Cube