Radiohead laid down the gauntlet with In Rainbows both creatively and strategically, now Coldplay is expected to drop their 4th album by summer 2008. But where the band’s first two releases earned long-lasting affection, their last effort X+Y fell far short after time, even with their most hardcore fans.

As such, Chis Martin and his boys have a lot to prove. Which is why he’s been hunkered down for several months writing and recording, out of sight of the media and prompting speculation that his marriage is in tatters.

Word is the material is a slight departure from their original sound – a good thing. They’ve also apparently been working with Brian Eno and though the album title has yet to be announced, the band has been posting track titles on its website with the following commentary:

"It feels like a very dense record. There are so many melodies and colors packed into a relatively short space (42 minutes)…But the music still has integrity. It"s real and honest. There"s no posturing or bombast."

Good. Because there was too much posturing and bombast last time.

Still… Chris’s confidence sounds to be as strong as ever:

"When the deadline comes and the work is done, this will be the album I always dreamed we"d make.

He really needs to stop with the declarations, non? Last time he called Fix You “the most important song we"ve ever written” and no one even remembers it. I love the song but it certainly wasn’t With or Without You either, which is what he wanted it to be.

There is however cause for optimism. Chris the artist egomaniac is well aware that the last album was universally underwhelming. And that, supposedly, has made him hungry.

So 2008 is shaping up to be a year of lofty expectations for the Paltrow-Martins. Gwynnie needs a hit with Iron Man and Chris needs many with the new disc. Will they bond over the pressure or is it a recipe for trouble? Stay tuned…