Sound — 7
The band officially formed in 1998, though they had played together for a few years leading up to this under a few different names. After officially forming they began releasing EPs pretty much immediately and at a prodigious rate. They began to release a new full-length studio album every 2 to 3 years and they've continued doing that up until this current release, "Ghost Stories." They have repeatedly charted well with previous releases and have been nominated and won several awards. Suffice it to say, even people who aren't their fans would still recognize the name. They've been successful. "Ghost Stories" is the band's sixth studio release, and has had 3 singles released in advance of the album. The first single, "Magic," was released in early March; the second single, "Midnight," was released in mid-April; the third single, "A Sky Full of Stars," was released in early May. The standard edition of the album has nine tracks and a runtime of just over 42 minutes. The deluxe edition has twelve tracks and clocks in at approximately 49 minutes.
The album opens up with the track "Always in My Head," which has an interesting slow swing to it and an infectious bassline. When the lyrics come in you will pretty much understand the intimate nature of the lyrical content of the entire album - it is very personal and it is a lot different than what I'm used to hearing from Coldplay. Next is the single, "Magic," which has percussion from a drum machine instead of live drumming and a simple melody that the song slowly builds from. "Ink" starts with the line "got a tattoo says together through life" to give you an idea of where this song is going. At this point you know you have to be ready to go down this melancholy trip with the band to be able to listen to this album the rest of the way through. "True Love" is sang in close to a falsetto voice for part of the song, and uses a lot of synth/keyboard to create a certain mood. The single, "Midnight," has a lot of processed vocals - reverbs/delays - which give the entire song an otherworldly vibe. "Another's Arms" uses dissonance very well to create the feeling they're aiming for - I just gotta say, if nothing else, that small part, they deserve some credit for that. "Oceans" has an acoustic intro played along some type of "beeping" sound effect - I think it is supposed to emulate a heart monitor, but it honestly just feels out of place and mixed too loudly... and lasts for the ENTIRE track. "A Sky Full of Stars" is a piano-driven track, and was also the third single released from the album. It has an almost EDM breakdown in it that is interesting, it is like the sun breaking through the clouds. "O" is another piano-driven song, this one with a sad little repeating melody. This is where the standard edition ends, for the extra three tracks you'll have to pick up the deluxe edition.
Lyrics — 7
Chris Martin's voice isn't exactly generic, but it doesn't have as much character as some vocalists - of course, as a point of reference I like vocalists like Bob Dylan, Isaac Brock and Dave Mustaine - a lot of character, probably more than skill. So you can take my opinion for what it's worth. While Chris does at times seem to emotionally connect with the lyrics more than on their previous releases, his voice is like a competent accompaniment to the instrumentation and not much more. The lyrics are some of the most personal lyrics the band has released, as it should be as the album is essentially a concept album dealing with Chris' break-up with his wife. As a sample of the lyrics from the single, "A Sky Full of Stars": "Cause you're a sky/ cause you're a sky full of stars/ I'm going to give you my heart/ cause you're a sky/ cause you're a sky full of stars/ and cause you light up the path/ I don't care/ go on and tear me apart/ I don't care if you do/ cause in a sky/ cause in a sky full of stars/ I think I saw you." So, like a lot of the rest of the album Chris is kind of wallowing in the experience of his break-up, but on the positive side of it he isn't being vitriolic but instead seems to be using the lyrics and the music as instruments of the healing process. More power to him, then.
Overall Impression — 7
This is a heavy album. I'm a fan of melancholy music, but music that is vaguely and non-specifically melancholy - "Ghost Stories" is sad. It is like an emotional journal of Chris Martin's heartbreak, which can become uncomfortable to listen to. Not that it is "bad," but it is emotionally exhausting, or potentially painful if you're feeling very empathetic. I do have to give the band props for releasing a very honest album, but I wonder if it wouldn't have had a better place as a Chris Martin solo release - because this is by far the most "personal" release the band has ever released and it feels weird sitting alongside the band's other releases. On the flip side, this is supposedly the first album where the other band members began writing the music while previously they just "added" to Chris Martin's ideas, so in that way he has had less creative control than he has had previously. My favorite song is probably "A Sky Full of Stars," but I did appreciate some little moments in the others songs a lot, as well. I would definitely recommend this album only if you're willing to go on that emotional trip with Chris Martin.