Hating Coldplay is so passé. Back when I was in school, we would wear our disgust at the band with pride and take any excuse to express our distaste with their latest blot on the landscape of popular music. I mean, popularity AND acclaim? Who did they think they were, The Beatles?!
But now I'm all grown up and my ego can take the abuse I might receive for saying with complete sincerity that those boys have produced some stella albums. ‘Viva La Vida’ in particular is I think a monolithic work of art that achieves the kind of emotional heights that most bands strive for their entire careers. Unfortunately ‘Ghost Stories’ is a legitimate reason to dislike Coldplay.
There's something about Coldplay's latest that feels like a series of B-sides and studio out-takes that just happen to cohere over that most common of themes: heartbreak. It's an underwhelming, if not entirely lacking album, the brevity of which is probably its most redeeming feature. It's partially disappointing because Mylo Xyloto felt like Coldplay were on the cusp of something exciting and new, and this feels like a step backward. But it's also disappointing because this is Chris Martin's break-up album and, though we know that they guy can write an impassioned song, Ghost Stories sounds lazy and uninspired. In terms of great break-up albums, the album just doesn't cut the mustard. This is no ‘In The Wee Small Hours’ or ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ and it's certainly not up to the standard of my own personal favourite: Noah and The Whale’s astonishing ‘The First Days of Spring’.
Before I continue, I'll quickly discuss the album's assets: the first track 'Always In My Head' is a corker, opening with a looped choral hook that confidently sets the tone. This leads into the single 'Magic', which is aptly named seeing as it's perhaps the the only moment of magic on the entire album. Aside from these two pleasant ditties, 'True Love' just about gets away with it by way of its lovely staccato string ornamentation, even if the glissando guitar and vocals do become a little whiny.
Unfortunately the rest of the album is made up of tracks that are either boring ('Another's Arms' and 'Oceans') or tracks that don't sound like Coldplay at all. 'Midnight' owes more than a little to Bon Iver and 'Ink' could easily be an Ed Sheeran track with it's RnB/acoustic vibe and “gritty” central metaphor. Finally, the album climaxes with the Avicii-produced 'A Sky Full of Stars', a sycophantic gesture which makes one very confusing listening experience. A song like 'Atlas' (released in 2013 as part of the Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack) would have provided the desired narrative effect at this point in the album. They're clearly capable of producing tracks like that, so why the lame attempt at EDM?
The final track 'O' is actually rather palatable, but it's too little too late. Ghost Stories will more than likely fail to emote in the ways that ‘Parachutes’ and ‘A Rush of Blood
Words: Ali Gardner