Coldplay 'Ghost Stories' Review: Coldplay's Newest Album Is A Snooze
These are the last discernible words of Ghost Stories, Coldplay’s sixth studio album. It’s also extremely valuable life advice and useful for, say, navigating through a crumbling marriage. Hypothetically speaking, of course.
It’s no secret: actress Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay frontman Chris Martin have broken up. This resulting album is a sweet-tempered chronicle of their downfall. Chris Martin has been defeated, but certainly to the gain of fans who have been looking for a more grounded Coldplay for the past couple of albums. Admirably, there isn’t any bitterness here: the album is brimming with bittersweet love and sadness. It’s an album that their kids may be able to listen to one day when their hearts are inevitably broken, too.
Steady, understated percussion in the background is consistent throughout most of the songs and recalls the band’s more mellow days. In fact, the beat is so uniform throughout the duration of the record that at points it’s hard to discern where one tune starts and the other ends. Gone are the hard, epic beats you can feel in your chest; drummer Will Champion has instead opted for downplayed, simplistic rhythms in the album’s careful effort to allow the narrative lyrics to come to the forefront. Though the minimalist approach is certainly a marked departure, the result is unintentional glaring monotony. Yes, the album is a narrative… but all good stories have twists and turns, and this album barely diverges from the subdued track it takes from the first song.
That’s not to say that the entire album is bereft of anything interesting or new. The song “Midnight,” one of the singles off of this album, certainly doesn’t represent the sound of the rest of the record. The song deviates by giving Chris Martin’s crystalline falsetto a robotic twist. The departure is fascinating and, overall, positive: the song is soothing and reminiscent of Thrice’s Water Index with its drifting, lonely mood. The song “Oceans” is similarly soothing, with a carefully muted bleep of a radar call to pair with the aquatic theme and overall lilting, oceanic sound. With the album’s overall theme of someone slipping away, the radar call is a perfect analogy for that last-ditch effort to reach out and grab on. It’s very, very similar to their older tracks, to the point where it could have been on the soundtrack to Garden State right next to “Don’t Panic.”
The other track that stands out is “Sky Full of Stars,” and that’s because it’s a disastrous castaway of a song that seemed reluctantly and apologetically thrown on Ghost Stories to appease the people who’ve come to expect anthemic walls of sound from the band. You know those people. We all know them. We’ve seen them singing along to terrible remixes of “Paradise” in clubs near closing time. Well, here’s another one for the anthem-lovers. Sorry, everybody.
One cringe-worthy element of Ghost Stories is the sample of singer-songwriter Jane Weaver’s track on “Another’s Arms.” Theoretically, Weaver’s soaring vocals should break up some of the unstoppable snooze-fest of this record, but instead it just seems out of place and a bit jarring. If you had fallen asleep at some point during the rest of this album (likely), this will wake you up. Weaver’s voice is lovely and clear, but it seems like something purposely sewn into the album intended to add drama where no drama is needed.
Altogether, Ghost Stories isn’t bad, but it’s not great. It is, at best, a monotonous collection of tracks (pretty, but boring). At worst, it’s the sleeper hit of the summer, but mostly because you spend the duration of it sleeping. Though it’s great to see Coldplay head back to their more minimalistic roots, it’s almost too bare- resulting in a raw album surviving on a story of a broken heart.