Release Date: May 19, 2014
Record label: Atlantic
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Around the time Coldplay's sixth album, Ghost Stories, was scheduled for release, lead singer Chris Martin announced he was divorcing his wife, the actress Gwyneth Paltrow. In light of this news, it's hard not to see Ghost Stories as a breakup record, a romantic confessional written in the wake of a painful separation. Certainly, the album bristles with references to broken hearts and regrets, ruminations on how the past informs the present, its every song infused with an inescapable melancholy, but the album doesn't play like a deep wallow in sorrow.
If you’re looking for another review to lambaste Coldplay as the most generic and overall lamest band around right now, abandon all hope ye who enter here. This is as much a defense as it is a review. Now that we’re all on the same page, let’s proceed. Coldplay’s sound has grown louder and bigger with each succeeding album up to Mylo Xyloto.
“Ever since our band came out, we have been a very polarising group because we do a certain thing very well”, said Coldplay’s Chris Martin in a recent interview on BBC Radio 1. “I don’t really mind what anyone says about this album.”? If you don’t like or “get” Coldplay, you never will. Be it Martin as a frontman or the band’s routinely mocked “soft-rock” tendencies, there will always be something - perceived rightly or wrongly - to poke at.
Once upon a time, picking over Chris Martin lyrics was a sport, a race to guess the rhyming word. Like Noel Gallagher — and doesn’t that just trip off the tongue? — Martin seemed to be filling up space, chucking in a few platitudes to bulk up the bars between big choruses. He may not be Dylan just yet, but everyone will be parsing ‘Ghost Stories’ for a different sort of clue, maybe even hamfisted attempts to rhyme “conscious” and “coupling”.
I like Coldplay in the same way that I like clouds or blue whales or Resonance FM – they seem like a far off phenomenon that doesn’t really have very much to do with me, but I think I’d be sorry if they were gone. Ten years ago everyone - EVERYONE - seemed to be either tentatively enjoying A Rush of Blood to the Head or had, at least, expressed grudging admiration for the band’s 2002 Glasto headline slot. But the last time I had a discussion with anybody who was really ‘in’ to Coldplay was around the release of X&Y, the record that pretty much did for whatever fillip of indie cred they may or may not have had left (and I know that’s a pretty half-arsed attempt at scientific empiricism, but seriously, I find it odd that I don’t know anyone - ANYONE - into the biggest band in the world when I know people who’ll confess to loving the most awful things).
Since we met Chris Martin 14 years ago, he's been a trusted emotional shepherd, nudging us to hear the clanging bells, marvel at the stars, glow in the dark, obey our hearts. But what happens when he doesn't have someone to write all those lush ballads for? Coldplay's sixth album is called Ghost Stories, and there's a blond phantom obviously haunting its nine tracks. The record comes just two months after Martin and his wife of a decade, Gwyneth Paltrow, announced their "conscious uncoupling" – outwardly a breakup with the best intentions, but a split all the same.
Chris Martin is going through some serious stuff. Clearly and very obviously inspired by the Coldplay singer’s recent divorce from actress Gwyneth Paltrow, Coldplay‘s sixth album Ghost Stories is actually a sonic therapy session during which Martin seems to experience pretty much all five stages of grieving – especially the last two, depression and acceptance. If you can handle the super-soppy (and sometimes quite cheesy) lyrics as Martin battles his way through this conscious uncoupling from Goop, you realise that the music itself is actually no lesser for it.
Coldplay is not an easy band to hate, but they’re a particularly difficult band to love. In their 15 years together, they’ve harbored greatness in the making (Parachutes), proven themselves an arena-pop act with the earnestness to match U2 (A Rush of Blood to the Head), and even graduated to their working-with-Brian-Eno stage (Viva La Vida). And yet, they’ve also undergone a few awkward stages involving poorly appropriated Kraftwerk riffs (X&Y) and Top 40 largesse (Mylo Xyloto).
Chuck Klosterman once accused Coldplay of manufacturing “fake love as frenetically as the Ford fucking Motor Company. ” Coldplay may manufacture fake love, but life manufactures real heartache, as the yawping press surrounding singer Chris Martin's “conscious uncoupling” from actress Gwyneth Paltrow reminds us. Whether or not that's what we're actually getting on Ghost Stories is rendered moot in the face of piteous lyrics like, “Cut me into two/Still believe in magic?/Yes I do,” from lead single “Magic.
When we got our first taste of Ghost Stories with "Midnight," it seemed as though the band was shedding its tried-and-true brand of anthemic alt rock and taking a note from the book of Bon Iver, with an eerie build-up that never quite resolves and vocoder that perfectly fits Chris Martin's soft coos. If you were hoping the rest of Ghost Stories would shatter the Coldplay mould, keep waiting. The other eight tracks do little to differentiate themselves from the band's recent records (especially 2011's Mylo Xyloto), with tracks flooded with electronic beats, mood-setting synths and shimmering guitars backing Martin's falsetto.
The tracklisting for Coldplay's sixth album was announced on 3 March, almost three weeks to the day before singer Chris Martin and his wife Gwyneth Paltrow announced their separation, by way of a brief post that appeared amid the recipes for pasta with dandelion leaves and quinoa-stuffed kiobtcha on the latter's website, Goop. It didn't take a genius to link the contents of the first document with the second: there was always a chance that songs called things like Another's Arms and Always in My Head might navigate similar emotional terrain to Boney M's Hooray! Hooray! It's a Holi-Holiday!, but it didn't seem terribly likely. The realisation that Ghost Stories is Coldplay's divorce album might even cause someone hitherto uninterested in the band's oeuvre to feel a certain prickle of interest.
Picture this: Chris Martin - tired of the glowsticked ‘Mylo Xyloto’ rave-cruise - decides to go on some soul-searching. Yes, a recent break-up probably does come into the context, but ‘Ghost Stories’ isn’t some anti-vegan, Paltrow-baiting diatribe. It almost definitely sounds more like a solo record than any other Coldplay album, but stick with it - this is Martin at his most tender, heartfelt and tangibly ready to sell his thoughts.From the odd, subdued ‘Midnight’ to the all-nighter Avicii-produced banger ‘A Sky Full Of Stars’, ‘Ghost Stories’ has its extreme variations, but each song is tied together by Coldplay’s frontman.
Any band catapulting to mainstream success as fast as Coldplay (as well as any band as sincere as the English quartet) will undoubtedly meet some pretty hefty criticism. From the missed opportunity of X&Y, to the cheesiness of their hearts-wide-open love songs, to Chris Martin rubbing scores of people the wrong way, some critiques have been deserved, while others have been comically overblown. But, as Martin notes, “We have been a very polarizing group because we do a certain thing very well.” And it’s true.
Review Summary: Heartbreak by numbers. Albums released in the aftermath of a failed relationship tend to be particularly tricky to review, mainly as there’s no reliable way of telling when an artist might be drawing from personal experience or is simply exercising some artistic liberty. Accordingly, Coldplay’s Ghost Stories, which is at least partly inspired by vocalist Chris Martin’s recent relationship troubles with Gwyneth Paltrow, deserves to be approached with some initial trepidation.
"If you could see it, then you'd understand." That glistening anti-koan punctuates the chorus of Coldplay's skyscraping 2005 single "Speed of Sound", and the lyric's profound meaninglessness has doubled as a mission statement for the mega-band's career thus far. They've established a reputation as mainstream rock's koi pond architects, designing music that's deceptively shallow but, if caught at the right moment, shimmeringly beautiful, to the point that you could focus on it for hours. Impossibly indulgent on a sonic level while retaining the intellectual depth of a cell phone commercial, Coldplay's catalog is largely experiential—a reflecting pool for the hopes, dreams, and heartaches that listeners wish to apply to the music.
Those are angel wings on the cover of Coldplay's sixth studio album, etched by the London-based Czech artist Míla Fürstová. The album's opening track, Always in My Head, wafts in on a wave of celestial shimmers too; elsewhere, there are skies full of stars. Birds take flight on the album closer, O. But you don't need to squint to see another picture altogether on the cover of Ghost Stories – not wings, but a heart broken jaggedly in two.
"Is it okay to like Coldplay?" I wondered self-consciously before listening to the British mega-band's sixth studio album. "Fuck it," I thought. I like Coldplay - and not even just their first two efforts. The latest record is curiously timed, coming out seven weeks after lead singer Chris Martin and wife Gwyneth Paltrow introduced us to "conscious uncoupling," so it's not hard to guess what Ghost Stories is all about.
You don't have to be Sigmund Freud to figure out the deep inner meaning of the new Coldplay album. Each and every song addresses the "conscious uncoupling" heard 'round the world between band leader Chris Martin and soon-to-be-ex-wife Gwyneth Paltrow. "Ghost Stories" — officially out on May 20 but streaming now on iTunes First Listen — finds Martin curled up in the fetal position, mewling non-stop about the love that let him down.
Irony has now come full circle for Coldplay. Back when the band’s unassuming debut Parachutes was released in 2000, it found itself, like so many other LPs by male British alternative outfits of the time, flooded by a sea of Radiohead comparisons. Given how brightly the star of that most revered of British rock groups was shining at the time, it makes sense that the affable, piano-driven rock of Coldplay seemed sub-par to those who fancied themselves as having finer tastes.
It’s unlikely that many people were clamoring for a demure Coldplay record, considering the band already had a partially deserved reputation for delivering various shades of vanilla. But Ghost Stories, Coldplay’s sixth, strips away the pomp and bombast of 2011’s Mylo Xyloto almost completely. Even the color scheme of this new record directly contrasts the garish Technicolor of the last one, choosing detailed gray-on-blue sketches.
As the title implies, Coldplay’s sixth album, “Ghost Stories,” out Tuesday, is a spectral affair, haunted by longing. Co-produced by the Brit pop-rock quartet and previous collaborators like Paul Epworth, these are contemplative, lifesize “Stories,” plain-spoken, personal tales mostly free from the gloss of the band’s often grandiose arena ambitions but still featuring several sonic layers — acoustic and electronic — and some earwormy melodies. The collection is a hazy look at what has been lost, like quiet, cozy moments watching late-night TV (“Another’s Arms”) or the times when “I love you” felt glorious instead of hollow (“True Love”).
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opinion by MATTHEW M. F. MILLER Timing isn’t everything, but it accounts for a fair amount of the colors and shades that paint the way we experience unexpected situations. Which means the arrival of Ghost Stories, a new Coldplay album, in the exhale breath of our post-“Conscious Uncoupling” era will forever be tinted by the pretentious breakup of frontman Chris Martin and America’s shrillest, kale-filled punching bag, Gwyneth Paltrow.