Ghost Stories Review

artist: Coldplay date: 05/26/2014 category: compact discs
Coldplay: Ghost Stories
Released: May 19, 2014
Genre: Alternative Rock, Indie Pop
Label: Parlophone
Number Of Tracks: 9
Essentially, this is a break-up album written around Chris Martin's split with Gwyneth Paltrow which occurred over a period of time while the album was being written and recorded. It still makes for a decent listen.
 Sound: 8
 Lyrics: 8
 Overall Impression: 8
 Overall rating:
 Reviewer rating:
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reviews (2) pictures (1) 31 comments vote for this album:
overall: 7
Ghost Stories Featured review by: UG Team, on may 20, 2014
3 of 4 people found this review helpful

Sound: 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. // 7

Lyrics: 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. // 7

Overall Impression: 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. // 7

- Brandon East (c) 2014

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overall: 9
Ghost Stories Reviewed by: Memory In Death, on may 26, 2014
1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Sound: 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. // 9

Lyrics: 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. // 9

Overall Impression: 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. 

Standout tracks:

"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." // 9

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