It’s as though Coldplay have been on a journey of progression over the last decade and a half, and in a wonderful twist they’ve decided to incorporate their roots with everything they’ve learnt so far. Their production on the album is brilliant, and listening to the record on a good pair of speakers improves the whole thing by leaps and bounds as one can appreciate the incredible effort that went into perfecting each and every sound on the album. While the band came close to this on predecessor, Mylo Xyloto, I’d say their attempt at clean production on Ghost Stories is far superior. Rather than the almost irritating, overly colourful burst of sound that hits you smack in the ears upon listening to Xyloto, Ghost Stories is wonderfully minimal. It seems that if Mylo Xyloto was Chris Martin undergoing a mid-life crisis, than Ghost Stories is his acceptance, his deep breath of air as he emerges out into the unknown.
Chris Martin’s lyrics have always been slightly predictable, although perhaps this is one of the factors that makes their songs so listenable. Yet on Ghost Stories his lyrics seem to have more thought, more emotion. It’s evident that the singer was experiencing some emotional turbulence at the time of writing. Yet unlike NME I won’t just pretend to review the album while actually writing a short biopic of Chris and Gwyneth.
Lead single from the album, Magic, is the clear standout track of the album. A wonderful track that encapsulates the pain of past relationships as well as the worthwhile experience of the love that bloomed during. The track is a clear ode to Paltrow, and its simple yet poignant lyrics leave the listener bittersweet, with the aching feeling that all good things come to an end.
Call it magic
Cut me into two
And with all your magic
I disappear from view
And I can’t get over
Can’t get over you
Still I call it magic
You’re such a precious jewel.
Unfortunately the album takes a trip into the ‘bland’ genre with crooning ballad, Turn Blue. Instead of creating that perfect mix between melancholy, affecting, yet perfectly listenable – a formula that Coldplay usually churn out with ease – Turn Blue is just a little bit dull (aside from the out-of-tune guitar solo at the end, which I’m surpised producer, Timbaland, didn’t get rid of). The only redeeming part of the track is the heartbreaking lyrics: “Tell me you love me, if you don’t then lie.”
Midnight, another track released prior to the LP, is another of my picks. A vastly different direction for Coldplay that would usually be more at home on a Bon Iver record, the music of Midnight is deliciously crisp and cool and complements Martin’s layered falsetto vocals. As mentioned previously, the production here is flawless. Oceans is the track where Coldplay really go back to their roots – this song sounds like it could have fallen right out of Parachutes. Wearing his emotions on his sleeve, Martin sings over delicate acoustic guitar about the pains of a dying relationship.
Wait for your call, love,
The call never came,
Ready to fall, love,
Ready to claim.
As the song ends one is left in a saddened state, the cynical advice of, “You’ve got to find yourself alone in this world” reverberating as you hear the rushing ocean. Unfortunately this mood is abruptly halted as the obnoxious piano chords of A Sky Full Of Stars leap into action. This is probably the biggest disappointment on the album, but then I am incredibly biased against Avicii, or anything that slightly resembles a ‘club banger’. It all just seems very plastic and shiny and simple in comparison to the rest of the album.
Fortunately final track, O, ends the album on a far better note. Back to a piano-based ballad but this time more hopeful. Martin sings of unconditional love and the listener can gauge that, despite the heartbreak and pain of a broken marriage, the love for his children is unwavering.
The album left me melancholy, wistful of a relationship that had been and gone. That’s definitely not a bad thing though, in fact I’m a staunch believer that the best records created are some of the most depressing, written at a time when music was the only escape for the artist. While Ghost Stories doesn’t quite make it as Coldplay’s classic album (sorry, but nothing since beats A Rush Of Blood To The Head), the record as a whole is poignant, and hints at the start of a new dawn for Coldplay.