Post # 14 - Ghost Stories - Coldplay (2014)
"Reset. Recalibrate." This is what Coldplay set out to achieve, according to drummer Will Champion, with Ghost Stories, the follow up to their hugely successful 2011 album Mylo Xyloto. I’m of the opinion that X&Y (2005) was Coldplay’s last great album. Viva La Vida (2008) definitely featured some amazing tracks, but it was already hinting at the over complicated, synth heavy, electronic and over produced direction and sound that dominated Mylo Xyloto.
Coldplay’s success lies in their simplicity. They have the unique ability to take a simple melody, couple it with a simple chord progression and make it sound unnaturally sublime. It’s the secret formula behind all their early hits, and what made them one of the best bands of the past twenty years. Sadly, we have seen less and less of this style of songwriting from Coldplay in recent years, and so it was both refreshing and exciting to hear the above comment from Champion.
So, does Ghost Stories accomplish what it set out to achieve? For the most part, definitely, but not quite in the way that one would expect. All the singles I’d heard leading up to the realese of the album had me worried. Magic sounded nauseatingly repetitious and slightly boring, Midnight sounded out of sync with anything coldplay had ever released and A Sky Full of Stars sounded too inlfuenced by its co-producer, Avicii. However, when you listen to these songs in the context of the album in its entirety, they’re quite spectacular, especially Midnight.
Ghost Stories begins with the ethereal Always In My Head, which eases into Magic.The album gradualy builds up over the next few tracks, and its at this point that Midnight begins to pick up the pace. The listener’s patience is rewarded as track seven, Oceans, blends seamlessly into A Sky Full of Stars, which is ultimately the culmination of all the preceding tracks and the rhythmic climax of the album. From here, the album subsides once more, with the piano ballad enitled simply as O, and the remainder of the album subsequently tapers off.
Overall, both musically and lyrically, Ghost Stories sounds like a deep and often dark introspection. The album is noticably more stripped back in parts, and Coldplay undoubtedly sound as though they have taken a deep breath, stepped back, and “recalibrated”. My only gripe with Ghost Stories is that it ends on a slightly weak note, and is mostly devoid of the aforementioned style of song writing which would have given the album a bit of a much needed boost at certain times. In saying that, I may be longing for a foregone style of music, seeing as Coldplay have now been around for over fifteen years.
Ghost Stories is certainly Coldplay’s most mature, complex and experimental work to date, and while some may find the pace of the album to be too slow or be disheartened that Coldplay have not gone “back to their roots”, it definitely offers enjoyable discoveries with each listen, and heralds an interesting change in artistic direction for the band.