Sound — 9
With the coming of Coldplay's 6th studio album, haunting soundscapes and gentle, cold, glittering synths take over. Chris Martin's soft crooning on many tracks complement these atmospheric soundscapes very well. Whether it's on the gentle, atmospheric and surreal "Another's Arms," the vocoder doused lullaby "Midnight," or the acoustic tinged "Oceans." He also delivers a stellar performance on the track "A Sky Full of Stars," the 2nd single from the album. An EDM influenced track, which still retains Coldplay's arena vibe and happens to be the only upbeat track on the album.
The sound and layering on these songs are intricate. There's a lot going on in the back than you think. Most of the tracks have an ambient backdrop, and an overall dark mystical feel to them. Brian Eno's influence is definitely felt, being that he produced their last two albums. Most of these songs have those beautiful moments, sending shivers down your spine. A very good mix of ambient/electronic/alternative/pop and as I mentioned earlier, very atmospheric.
Lyrics — 9
Chris Martin has stated the this record is indeed a concept album, revolving around the idea of one's past actions, one's "Ghosts," and the effect it has on one's future and capacity of love, inspired by his split with Gwyneth Paltrow. "The idea of 'Ghost Stories,' for me, was 'how do you let the things that happen to you in the past - your ghosts - how do you let them affect your present and your future?' Because there was a time when I was feeling like they were going to drag me down and ruin my life, and the lives of those around me." - Chris Martin
Fittingly, the album's lyrics mostly explore the themes of love and admiration, while looking back at a failed relationship, going hand in hand with the moody and dark vibe that the album retains throughout. There's not much to be said about the lyrics.
Overall Impression — 9
Being a huge departure from their previous albums, there is no doubt that this album will polarize fans and critics alike. Even though their previous albums were different from each other regarding various aspects, they still shared a lot in common, which isn't the case with "Ghost Stories." "Ghost Stories" is the band reinventing themselves, comparable to the likes of "Kid A" by Radiohead and "A Thousand Suns" by Linkin Park.
Does it work? That depends. Personally, I feel this is a huge step forward for the band, and is going to lead into something better in the coming future. I'm saying this as someone who was never into their other albums, except for their sophomore release "A Rush of Blood to the Head," which is considered their best by many. Although, this album is now my favorite Coldplay album, and something that I consider their best effort. As mentioned in the "Sound" section of this review, this album contains a mix of various genres, including ambient, electronic, pop, experimental and alternative, infused with orchestral elements here and there.
If you're into stuff like that, definitely check out the album. If not, stay away. It might take you a couple of listens to get the hold of it, but when you do, it's amazing, and is definitely worth it.
"Another's Arms": Starts off with a haunting female operatic voice which is a recurring element on this song. This track is gentle, simple, and melodic. "When the pain just rips right through me/another's arms/another's arms," sings Chris Martin, over atmospheric soundscapes. Definitely a highlight.
"Midnight": Chilly ambient track with Chris Martin singing through a vocoder. Many of you are probably familiar with this, as it was the first track to be unveiled from the album.
"Oceans": This acoustic guitar-centric track is very reminiscent of the "Parachutes" era Coldplay. This will certainly attract fans of that era. With that being said, it still contains new elements, including a repeating electronic blip throughout. The last section of this song, when the strings come in, complemented by Chris Martin's falsetto, is absolutely beautiful.
"O": An amazing closer, which basically has two sections. An ambient, moody piano based section with clean vocals, which fades out and leads into 1 and a half minutes of looped opera style voices and synths that end with Chris Martin singing softly into a vocoder. This section is reminiscent of "Genchildren" by Radiohead, the short track on "Kid A" which appears after "Motion Picture Soundtrack."