Review Summary: On Coldplay's sixth effort, they finally become more than the critic's whipping boys.
I'll say it right now, for the longest time I never considered myself a fan of Coldplay. Perhaps, it was because of some form of elitism, or just my lack of being the proper audience, but something about their wide-eyed hopeless romanticism that quickly turned to arena-rock excess never quite appealed to me as someone who preferred Radiohead to what could've been called this generation's U2. However, with Ghost Stories that may have all changed.
From the start we are met with the album's intro, "Always in My Head" which is perhaps the only possible way an album like this could've started. It's sonically lush and delicate, and the lyrics combined with Chris Martin's subdued vocals stunningly beautiful melancholia. That runs the course for much of Ghost Stories, it's perhaps Coldplay's most introverted outing since their 2000 debut Parachutes. Chris Martin's lyrics are nothing short of breathtaking here, as it's some of the most emotionally vital work he's ever done. It's a wonder to me that the man who wrote such lyrically turgid and banal works like "Yellow" and "Fix You" could write an album that's so stunningly effective at evoking the emotions it sets out to make you feel, but it works, and it works damn well.
I mentioned the lush soundscapes earlier, that much is definitely true of Ghost Stories. Like the lyrics, it is a cold and minimalist affair that feels refreshing compared to an album so frustratingly happy like Mylo Xyloto. Ghost Stories takes much of its musical cues from Thom Yorke's 2006 solo effort The Eraser, electronics bleep, bloop, and chirp in all the right places and add great layers to the depressing world Chris Martin takes us into on this record. It's a refreshing change of pace to finally have a Coldplay album that sounds like it has a musical identity that is more than the sum of its influences.
For a long time Coldplay seemed like a band that would be stuck in the shadow of their influences, and don't get me wrong, they aren't quite to the point where they ought to be said in the same breathe as those influences. However, what is undeniable is that Coldplay have carved out a musical space they can call their own on Ghost Stories, their own Kid A, if you'll pardon the comparison. Ghost Stories is probably too experimental for longtime Coldplay fans and too direct for the critics, but some part of me believes that this album might just make the world of pop music a better place in 2014.