Coldplay has evolved a lot over the years. The British band started off with an acoustic sound on their debut album, “Parachutes”, while “X&Y” featured more of a symphonic rock sound. In the recent years, the band has experimented with an electronic sound, particularly on albums like “Viva la Vida” and “Mylo Xyloto.” So upon my first listen of “Ghost Stories”, I was surprised to hear that Coldplay has seemingly gone back to their mellow, acoustic roots.
Yes, Coldplay’s latest album seems more like the Coldplay of 1999 than the Coldplay of 2012, but that’s not really a bad thing. The album features a mix of slow-paced ballads, and mid-tempo pop songs that certainly take a while to grow on you, but are still quite wonderful, all the same.
Lead single,”Magic”, is one of those mid-tempo pop numbers; resplendent with drumming and laid back vocals from front man, Chris Martin. The song doesn’t have that same acoustic sound that some of the others on the album has, but it’s still markedly less “busy” than some of Coldplay’s other singles in the recent years. “True Love” is another mid-tempo number, which is one of my favourites on the album. Martin’s falsetto is absolutely perfect, and the bitter-sweet refrain of “tell me you love me, if you don’t, then lie to me…” really resonates. The sparkly synth line that runs throughout is overshadowed only by the beautiful strings that play along in the song’s background. The track ends up being one that perfectly illustrates everything I love about Coldplay as a band.
Meanwhile, “Another’s Arms” tells the story of a break-up with upbeat percussion and a female vocalist that comes in and out of the song like a sad siren. The lyrics (like many others on the album), definitely seem to point at Martin’s break-up with Gwyneth Paltrow (“Late night watching TV/Wish that you were here beside me/Wish that your arms were around me/Your body on my body”). Mellow number, “Oceans” certainly sounds like a song from the Parachutes album; Martin’s plaintive delivery and the slow burning sythn-line make up a beautifully subdued ballad.
The fan favourite seems to be “A Sky Full of Stars” which sounds a bit like “Clocks”, but updated and remixed for the dub-step generation. In fact, the track is the only on the album that sounds like something that really could’ve been released on any of Coldplay’s recent albums, and though its fast-paced melody is definitely welcome after so many ballads, I have to admit that the bevy of synthesizers and busy production isn’t my favourite.
The only really complaint I can make about the album is that it’s a definite “grower”; it won’t really stick with you until a few listens. Songs like “Midnight” don’t help; the echo-y vocals and percussion are cool, but the song is too slow-paced for its own good.
For the most part, “Ghost Stories” is the perfect Coldplay album; sensitive ballads, thoughtful lyrics, and lots of beautiful crooning from Chris Martin. Fans of the band will love this one, even if it does take a few listens to really sink in.
1. Always In My Head
4. True Love
6. Another’s Arms
8. A Sky Full of Stars