After 3 years in the studio, Coldplay released Ghost Stories on the 19th of May 2014 and with it, recorded the highest number of pre-orders on iTunes and streamed 54.4m downloads of “Magic” (the 1st single) from Spotify at the time when this review was written, just 12 hours after the international release.
Dubbed as the gold standard in the latest of break-up albums by some critics, one can’t quite slink away from Gywneth’s ridiculous tagline of ‘Conscious Uncoupling’ and what that might have had to do with Ghost Stories.
So let’s see.
Track 1: Always In My Head – the album’s first track is ethereal , haunting and is reminiscent of classic guitar rifts that could have fallen off a few branches from U2’s “The Joshua Tree” x Coldplay’s “Fix You”. I can’t decide as yet if the track has much else going for it even amidst its wonderful connection to the demise that comes with heartbreak in the moments before you start to see straight again.
Track 2: Magic – The album’s first single as we all know. One can’t help but think that the band was acutely aware that by releasing this track as it’s first, they were going to slowly reel their fan-base back into what is solidly, old school Coldplay. Enough said.
Track 3: Ink – Allegedly another tribute to his recently consciously uncoupled relationship based on the ‘G’ Chris Martin had tattooed for his soon to be ex-wife, this folky tune is a zephyr in this latest album effort. It’s clean, calm and (car) cruise-worthy – a must have in your Car Tunes playlist. A word of caution however, a tattoo is never a way to keep your love in sight as Chris laments.
Track 4: True Love – By track 4, I am convinced that the critics weren’t kidding about this being the current best break-up album of the century. It’s a very sad and depressing tune and one I would definitely reach for if my love ever ended and I was desperate to hold on to nothing. The guitar break much later in the track reminds me of something I would have listened to in a dive bar if I was ever in Miami in the 1970s and thankfully, I wasn’t. Still, I give it an A for effort, but I am starting to think that Coldplay is just about Chris Martin and his life, unless I missed the memo that the other 3 boys are also on the brink of divorces and / or breakups.
Track 5: Midnight – Imogen Heap! What the hell were they thinking here? I am a big fan of the boys, but of this track, I disapprove. It was completely unnecessary to add the electronic effect to the vocals. The almost upside is that the music is lovely and haunting until the third quarter of the track where it sounded like an open invitation to Avicii or worse, David Guetta to spawn a remix. So I mostly disapprove.
Track 6: Another’s Arms – a rather un-Coldplay tune that makes for interesting conversation. If i closed my eyes, I would place myself on the Scottish Highlands with a helicopter rising above my head taking panoramic shots of the highlands, moving away from me as I start to disappear from the horizon. Where finally, I am standing in a grassy knoll with absolutely nothing. Heartbreak. No doubt.
Track 7: Oceans – finally, I think I may have found my favourite track on the album. Chris’ voice reminds me of ‘Yellow’, of ‘Trouble’ and I am in Coldplay heaven again. Its hypnotic music is layered with an acoustic guitar, melodies that I can fly to and lyrics that I can dream to. Lyrics talk about being ready for a change and blue skies rather than heartbreak. Which is nice by the time you get to the 7th track on a 9 track album. 10/10 on this number.
Track 8: A Sky Full Of Stars – I hear church bells and oceans raging against a Cornish coast. Cue the anthemic piano rift and you have a club hit on the rise. It’s a dance track written for club fans and perhaps new Coldplay fans and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as we keep the mixes far away from the Guetta’s and Aviici’s of the world. The lyrics are smart if you peel away at their hand on their teenage fans’ hearts.
Track 9: O (Hidden Track) – Coldplay left the best for last. Their final track to this album is beautifully written and the music, if I were sad at time of review, would have reached for a box of tissues. It will bring you back to that first time that you heard “Yellow” and “Fix You”. I’ll admit, I teared when I heard those tracks for the first time. I didn’t to this because age does something to your heart and even Coldplay has to work very hard at bringing their ageing hardcore fans down. This, however, can damn well come close to doing so. Absolutely beautiful.
In a recent interview with the BBC, Martin acknowledged that his newest album was a heartbreak record, adding;
“What Ghost Stories means to me is you’ve got to open yourself up to love and if you really do, of course it will be painful at times, but then it will be great at some point.”
From the POPWIRE-POV, criticism aside and having been a formidable Coldplay fan since their first single “Yellow” – if, “Ghost Stories” is truly an indirect result of Chris Martin’s “Conscious Uncoupling” with whats-her-name, then one can rejoice that it’s allowed for Coldplay to (mostly) head back to the articulate, layered, haunting days of “Parachutes”. And that, is Magic. I give it a 7.5/10 ranking.
And as a gentle side-note, in case you will forget that Coldplay is really made up of 4 British gentlemen and not just Chris Martin on vocals (mainly), there’s Johnny Buckland on lead guitar, Guy Berryman on bass guitar and Will Champion on drums.
Here is their first single and video release, MAGIC, on Youtube.