Coldplay are hard to argue against as being the most disappointing music act in the mainstream setting. After a promising first two albums, the last decade of music from the band have become hard to defend. The direction to move away from piano and guitar led rhythms in order to get a more electronic approach may have sold them more albums, but the artistic quality has taken a major back seat. Ghost Stories brought a new angle to Coldplay, a more personal reason to make an album, as Chris Martin channeled the eventual divorce from fellow celebrity Gwyneth Paltrow to create a potentially heavier theme. Unfortunately, Coldplay come off just as impossible to relate than with past releases.
Coldplay did make a conscious decision to strip the instrumentation back, but the result is more boring than it is powerful. The bass is the most noticeable aspect of Ghost Stories, booming throughout the album as seemingly the lead instrument. The drums are highly disappointing, sounding more based off of a soundboard than an actual drummer performing the various beats, and guitars are used sparingly throughout the running time or are simply too low in the mix to be noticed. Even Chris Martin fails to give a convincing vocal performance on most of the album, whining and wailing more than bringing pretty vocals to the harsher subjects.
Despite the massive problems on Ghost Stories, there are a few positive highlights in the track listing. “Always In My Head” kicks off the album to decent effect. There is a solid sense of ambiance along with fragile vocals and a beat that booms well from beginning to end. “True Love” is the highlight of the record, being the only truly good song. It gives off an 80s pop-rock feel, while lush instrumentation carries throughout the track. Martin actually shines vocally on the song, and the chorus is the only tangible time where the album strikes a chord about losing someone. The last song worth discussing is the clear single, “A Sky Full of Stars.” Avicii working with Coldplay sounds like a recipe for disaster, but the mix works to decent effect. Avicii creates a poppy beat that is worth tapping a finger to, and the upbeat feel to the song is a godsend in comparison to the goofy and cold negative ones leading up to it.
There are many more negative aspects worth discussing on Ghost Stories: for every competent song on the track listing, there is a truly terrible one in comparison. “Magic” is probably the most annoying song Coldplay have ever created. The repeated use of the song title is too goofy for it’s own good, and Chris Martin fails to create any sense of harmony with his vocals. “Ink” decides to compare lost relationships to the pain of getting a tattoo, which is not an idea the band could possibly follow through with in a believable manner. “Midnight” never sounds appealing to the ears, with vocals that are terribly mixed and a beat that takes over the track in the worst way possible. “O”, the closing track, is the worst song by a long shot, though, and to close the album with such a dull and boring sequence is a shame. The passage starts off well with a good piano beat, but the relation to birds leaving and the end of a long relationship is too cheesy to carry it. It could have ended there, but the hidden track after two minutes of pure silence kills all momentum and does little to make a listener want to listen to Ghost Stories ever again.
Ghost Stories is the nail in the coffin to Coldplay being a viable option as a mainstream artist worth following. Despite a promising concept and few decent tracks sprinkled throughout, this is Coldplay’s worst record to date. The amount of horrendous songs, dull tones, and a total lack of actual instrumentation is too much to take in.
1. Always In My Head
4. True Love
6. Another’s Arms
8. A Sky Full of Stars