Review Summary: Coldplay trade the stadium-shaking bombast and fanfare for a cozier, more relaxed, and at times even creepy sound.
"Expect the Unexpected" is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot nowadays, and in the past few years, Coldplay certainly seems to have been the type of band that it applies to most. The four-piece post-Britpop band shocked a lot of people when they traded in the bleak and dreary sounds of albums like X&Y
and A Rush of Blood to the Head
for a more orchestra and tribal-fusion fueled sound in 2008, and even moreso three years later with something of a continuation and lead-in to a more upbeat and bombastic sound. And while that period was fun, well, it can't last forever. So where exactly has Coldplay gone? Well, that's a good question. With two lead singles this year that, while good, were dissonant in how they were to represent the forthcoming album, the band has shocked us once again with a cozier, more synthy and at times, eerie palette to their music. It's not like they had any choice but to make a more laid-back album, and at times on Ghost Stories
, the band seem aware of it.
But the band seems to be fully embracing this different direction with the music, and who can blame them. Clocking in at just over 40 minutes, Ghost Stories
is indeed softer and more laid-back, but not at all like their previous albums. Synthesizers are more dominant than ever. While there are moments of anthemic stadium-ground rumbling and outbursts of colour, the album takes on a darker and sleepier feel. And for the most part, it works. There's plenty of moments of sheer beauty to be found throughout the album, in a sort of eerie way. There are shades of old Coldplay to be found, but luckily, it doesn't meant the band regressing into old habits and going "back-to-basics" for the sake of it- in fact, the band seems to be more mature and confident than ever with their latest album, something that greatly enhances the listening experience. Granted, "Midnight" is probably the best indication of what the overall sound of the album is like- the lead single is filled with a sleepy, electronic instrumental and creepy harmonized voices that sound almost like Imogen Heap's "Hide and Seek", but then there's tracks like "Ink" and "Sky Full of Stars" both being upbeat and irresistibly catchy tunes that will for sure be big hits and concert showstoppers. "Sky" in particular is the catchiest and most upbeat song on the album, with a chorus that shows the band veering off into almost dance-pop territory, and for sure it'll be the "turn up loud" song for most people. And then there's some songs that sound incredibly dark- "Another's Arms" in particular being a mid-tempo tune with ominous and brooding low-pitch vocals from Chris Martin, intercut with vocalizations in the chorus- it's a pretty intense song, and for sure one to listen in the dark. And of course, the usual love ballads are on display- "True Love" being a track with unique chord progressions and while a Chris doesn't particularly sound at his best on it, it works for the most part and gives the song a desperate feel- and bittersweet album closer "O" is one of those "lonely piano" songs with Chris comparing his love for someone to a flock of doves. It's a tear-jerker of a track and is a beautiful way to close the album for sure.
In short, Ghost Stories
is an album where the listener for sure need to lower their expectations. True, Coldplay's releases are just generally like that, but this one in particular shows the band defying expectations, making for one hell of a listening experience. The album never overstays its welcome, and though it isn't as good as "Mylo Xyloto" and does suffer from a few moments where it falls short (they could have picked a better opener than "Always On My Mind", and "Magic" is a bit too close to Muse's "Madness" to leave a lasting impression), Ghost Stories
is another solid album in the already loaded Coldplay canon. And with some of the tracks sure to downright blow people away in concert (Will they bring the glowing wristbands like they did last tour?), this deserves to be known as one of the great Coldplay albums. Now let's hope that in the future, the band will continue the momentum that they've had going since 2008, and will keep delivering more heartfelt efforts like this.