A Terrifyingly Real Ghost Story…

June 5, 2014

Coldplay Imagine you find your soul mate; the yin to your yang. The person you fall head over heels in love with, the one you know you could not possibly ever be apart from? Imagine the pain of their departure? Sure, we’re talking ‘conscious uncoupling’ here not death, but the haunting lyrics and sound of Coldplay’s sixth studio album “Ghost Stories” is so realistic we know it’s come from the scariest emotional place of all; a broken heart. Lead singer Chris Martin takes us on a journey through his troubled break-up with wife of 10 years – Gwyneth Paltrow – with such maudlin sorrow we’re dragged down to meet him in the depths of his self-pity. coldplay 2 The band recorded the album in London over 2012-2013, recruiting co-producer Paul Epworth and returning “Mylo Xyloto” producers Daniel Green and Rik Simpson. The album also features guest producers Timbland, Avicii and Jon Hopkins and since it’s release in mid-May has topped the US Billboard chart two weeks in a row.

It would seem, then, I’m not the only one interested in hearing the inner-most desperation of Martin’s failed marriage, or indeed, the only one to be interested in how the band have evolved since the days of ‘Clocks’ and ‘Yellow’. Is this album the stadium fayre we’re so used to from Coldplay? Not quite. It’s not going to get the people waving their lighters in the air (sorry – phones). However, what it DOES offer is raw emotion, beautifully haunting balladry, and at one point, a keyboard pounding EDM surprise in the form of the latest single released from the album “A Sky Full of Stars.”

The quiet opening track “Always In My Head” sets the tone of this uneasy set of journals – a concept album designed to tell us the story of a man going through various emotional states as he tries to come to terms with his break-up.

Track two “Magic”  – released as the lead single in March – is an utterly self-aware, minimalist track in structure with it’s simple keyboards and Martin’s familiar crisp vocals. It’s surprisingly one of the more upbeat songs. In fact, track three, the fast-paced tempo “Ink” verges on the up-beat too – until you consider it’s about the tattoo Martin will forever have marked on his person, reminding him every day of the love he’s lost.

Coldplay’s “Magic” Video Is Beautifully Tragic

We then head into some somewhat familiar Coldplay territory with track four “True Love” which sounds very reminiscent of the X &Y era whilst track five “Midnight” brings Queen-style multi-layered vocals from Martin, making for an incredibly lonely harmony. Track six “Another’s Arms” literally brings out the ghosts, they sing in the far-off background as Martin still holds the belief he could one day reunite with his ex-wife. Again, with track seven “Oceans” there is mild optimism. This time in the belief he will survive the heartbreak, he’s strong enough to push through it “You’ve got to find yourself alone”.

Track eight “A Sky Full Of Stars” – as aforementioned – stands alone. The Avicii collaboration is a departure for the band aswel as from the feel of the entire album. It’s a dance track and it has an uplifting beat and that’s the initial impact of this track, regardless of its subject matter, which in this instance is the realisation that Paltrow was the brightest star in the sky to him and she can never be replaced.

And so we arrive at the final track “O” and I have to say that after journeying with Martin through his emotions and the ghost of the love he’s lost on “Ghost Stories” I find myself genuinely heartbroken for him. This final track ends on a high – sort of. He’s hopeful that all is not lost and a reconciliation could one day be a possibility “So fly on, ride through/ Maybe one day I’ll fly next to you”.

There’s been an undercurrent of naysayer mumblings from critics who claim this simply isn’t good enough from Coldplay and they’ll lose their audience. But what I see is an artist using music as therapy and what the critics think about Martin’s writing and the feel of “Ghost Stories” as a whole is probably the furthest thing on his mind at the moment. A departure from the band’s recognisable, radio-friendly back catalogue of hits it may be, but it represents honesty.

-Lucy Jenkins.


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