This is not the album you would have expected from Coldplay three years ago. Back then, it seemed as if they were hell-bent on going the pop-route. The dance-flavoured "Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall" and the Rihanna-featured "Princess of China" conveyed no trace of a doubt that this would indeed be the Coldplay of times to come. It seemed the days of old were truly gone. But then things took a turn...
Ghost Stories is a brief, mood-based collection of nine songs which detail the emotional turbulences of lead singer Chris Martin's relationship troubles. Earlier this year, Gwyneth Paltrow announced the couple had split and people started to make sense of the lyrics of "Magic": "And I Just Got Broken, Broken Into Two..," etc. Indeed, this was a suitable singleto release as it reflects the general tone of the album eloquently. Martin is a broken man but he has not lost hope completely; he still believes in "magic." This will easily be a shoe-in for their Greatest Hits, whenever it should emerge. It's simple but poignant, bristling with the acoustic-based flavour of their earlier career
Elsewhere, we hear a number of similiar but interesting songs. "Ink" keeps up the flow of the album but with inspiration from further afield, playing on the guitars with a little more pluck than strum. "True Love" is a more ballad-esque cry for help. "Midnight" is unlike any Coldplay song before; sparse with echoing vocals over a heavily subdued instrumental. "Another's Arms" dips into a deeper vocal, reminiscent of Viva La Vida's "Yes" but with a lot less euphoria: "Late Night Watching TV, Used To Be Here Right Beside Me." "Always In My Head," "Oceans" and "O" also carry this thread on, though with a less distinct quality than the aforementioned. Indeed, it all works well on this sentimental line, except for the penultimate blunder that is "A Sky Full Of Stars."
Coldplay clearly were a bit hesitant on the overall nature of this album and felt the need to create a more radio-friendly hit. "A Sky Full Of Stars," co-written with Avicii, is not a bad song. One could even argue that it helps break up the mood of the album. In this same respect however, it threatens to undermine everything achieved before. The album perhaps would have been considered one-dimensional if it were left purely to the mood-swings of Martin but after the pompous pop of their last album, that would have been perfectly acceptable. This song is annoyingly upbeat and seems redudant within its context.
Overall however, Coldplay have delivered an interesting album at a critical juncture. The public would probably have accepted another pop-centric album but sometimes, it's nice to go for a more subdued and artsy sound. Coldplay have no desires to be remembered for one single sound.