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Coldplay were at risk of heading straight down the road towards banal, upbeat pop with Mylo Xyloto so thank goodness for Ghost Stories. There’s nothing like heartbreak to really fuel creativity, and whilst divorce – or in this case, ‘conscious uncoupling’ is not something I’d wish on anybody – I can’t help but find some rather callous joy in the fact that Chris Martin’s pain has been channelled into the new music I’ve been waiting for since the glow of Mylo Xyloto wore off. In Martin’s own words, Ghost Stories is “the journey from looking at everything you’re going through in your life, be it good or bad, and thinking: am I going to run away from it? Am I going to blame for it? Or is there a way that by really opening yourself right up to it that you might actually get to a more joyful place?” It’s a return to Coldplay’s artistic roots whilst at the same time reflecting Martin’s newfound zen-like attitude not just through lyrics but also the more ambient electronic sound that’s notably started to creep into Coldplay’s music.
Let’s start with the worst: A Sky Full of Stars and True Love. In case you were wondering why True Love sounded distantly familiar in a rather unpleasant way- it’s produced by Timbaland. Who clearly felt the need, in light of his recent obscurity, to put his irritating early 2000 drum and bass sounds all over the background of what would otherwise have been a decent song with a refreshing melody. In what seems to be an unnecessary move made mostly for marketing purposes, Coldplay also commissioned the “talents” of Swedish DJ Aviicii for A Sky Full of Stars. The result is an appallingly generic song that sounds like everything Aviicii has ever done and represents everything I hope Coldplay never do again.
Now that that’s out of the way- let’s move on to the good. There really is a lot of it on this album. Love, heartbreak and pain are all there but at the same time, there’s a sort of melancholy beauty in the peaceful acceptance of it all that really shines through. Always In My Head starts with soft, haunting choral music that leads into superb, mellow vocals. It’s the perfect introduction to the next song: Magic. Although it’s supposed to get more optimistic as the album progresses, I’d say Magic has a far more positive message than O, the last song on the album- and it’s one of my personal favourites because of it. Both Ink and True Love are unremarkable, but Midnight is a different story entirely. Dark, synthy goodness that’s quite unlike anything Coldplay have ever done- if this is the direction they choose to go in after this album, I’m all for it. Oceans is the one track on the album that is most reminiscent of early Coldplay. O, the last song on the album, is peaceful. According to Chris Martin: “although it starts off as a heartbreak record, it’s not. It’s a joyful realisation.”