We’ve all seen Chris Martin from Coldplay vulnerable before—in fact, the British alternative rock band is pretty much known for vulnerable (think back to the year 2000 when Martin sang “For you, I’d bleed myself dry” while walking up a rainy beach, alone). But with Coldplay’s new album, Ghost Stories, the newly “uncoupled” frontman and his bandmates take the term “vulnerable” to a whole new level.
Lets, for the sake of this review, pretend every other line of this album wasn’t inspired in some way by Martin’s recent fallout with the Goop queen and wife of 11 years, Gwyneth Paltrow. As a whole, the album is a combination of romantic and heartbroken love ballads strewn with electronic bursts and acoustic echoes here and there, and resembles the band’s debut album, Parachutes, a bit in style.
Apparently, Martin knew the song “Always In My Head” would be the opening song for the album as soon as he finished writing it—and immediately upon first listen, it seems pretty obvious why. The almost holy choir in the beginning gives way to an amiable melody and creates this overarching theme for the entire album throughout. It’s safe to say this song acts as the album’s testimony; Martin sings, “I think of you / I haven’t slept / I think I do / But I don’t forget,” and “This, I guess, is to tell you you’re chosen out from the rest.”
Other songs that continue this intimate theme on a linear path are “Magic,” first released back in March, with its heavy bass line and honest lyrics; “Ink,” with a slightly more upbeat rhythm, acting as the album’s symbol of undying love; and “True Love,” a relatable gem and perhaps the most compelling, heart-wrenching number. Although appropriately titled, the song is not necessarily about true love, but instead, about unrequited love; Martin pleads, “Tell me you love me / If you don’t, then lie to me / And call it true / Call it true love,” followed by a hopeful cry of ohhh’s and ahhhh’s.
“Midnight” is, perhaps, the most interesting and instrumentally surprising track off the album. Released back in February as a teaser before Ghost Stories was even officially announced, “Midnight” is quietly melodic, electronic, and purely experimental, and it accurately encompasses that meditative “awake at midnight” vibe so many romantic hopefuls and insomniacs are familiar with.
“Another’s Arms” welcomes an eerie and longing melody, another familiar theme for any who have felt the sting of a former partner falling in love with someone else, and “Oceans,” which is the most reminiscent of Coldplay’s Parachutes era, is a beautifully sincere (and almost painfully romantic) acoustic number. Sighs of heartbreak guaranteed.
Acting as an optimistic celebration of love, “A Sky Full of Stars” is the penultimate track of Ghost Stories. We’ve seen this familiar arch in Coldplay’s previous album, Mylo Xyoto; here, “A Sky Full of Stars” takes the place of the heart-thumping powerhouse “Don’t Let It Break Your Heart.” Co-produced by Avicii, this EDM-inspired, dance-ready single became an instant hit on music charts everywhere–and for good reason. It takes quite a leap in style from the rest of the album (though not from Coldplay’s other pop-anthem predecessors), and its smooth, well-timed transition glosses over any initial shock. This sets the stage for the finale, “O”—a sweet, hopeful piano ballad that declares, “Maybe one day I can fly with you.” At last, the album loops back to the “Always In My Head” opening choir, rounding off the album nicely, perhaps implying that love (and loss) always comes full circle.
As a whole, Ghost Stories is a pleasurable listen for new and old Coldplay fans alike. Although not necessarily groundbreaking, Ghost Stories is a refreshingly sincere and honest gem perfect for self-reflection–a welcoming addition to Coldplay’s Grammy-winning discography.
Overall Rating: 4/5
Key Tracks: “True Love,” “Always In My Head,” “A Sky Full of Stars,” “O”
Bonus tracks (available exclusively at Target): “All Your Friends,” “Ghost Story,” “O (Part 2-Reprise)”
BY MEGAN PORTORREAL
Coldplay Ghost Stories Review: Photos courtesy of coldplay.com