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September 07, 2014

Ghost Stories (Coldplay) - Album Review


"I used to rule the world...Seas would rise when I gave the word. Now in the morning I sleep alone...sweep the streets I used to ow-" 

Oh wait, wrong album.

Track Listing:
  1. Always in My Head
  2. Magic
  3. Ink
  4. True Love
  5. Midnight
  6. Another's Arms
  7. Oceans
  8. A Sky Full of Stars
  9. O
Reviewed By: Kyle van Rensburg (Head Writer)

Artist: Coldplay

Release Date: May 2014

Genre: Electronica

Verdict: 13+ for Mature Themes



Areas of Concern:

Violence/Gore:

Mild Moderate Heavy Very Heavy Extreme Offensive

--Metaphorical references to being cut in half, falling hard, having a lot of pained emotions, bleeding from thorns, literally being torn apart by a break-up and wanting to die in a lover's arms. (In the non-sexual way, for anyone familiar with the famous Cutting Crew song.)

Sex/Nudity:

Mild Moderate Heavy Very Heavy Extreme Offensive

--Several references to a romantic relationship, alluding to physical contact, a strong emotional need for each other and grief caused by a break-up. 

-The song "Another's Arms" seems to speak of a man longing for physical intimacy, especially with the repeating (slightly varied) line: "Pull yourself into me. Another's arms, another's arms..."

Language:

Mild Moderate Heavy Very Heavy Extreme Offensive

Nothing.

Drugs/Alcohol/Smoking:

Mild Moderate Heavy Very Heavy Extreme Offensive

Nothing.

Spiritual Content:

Mild Moderate Heavy Very Heavy Extreme Offensive 

--Much of the artwork relating to the album features extensive references to angels, churches, solar systems, praying, and, of course, ghosts.

-As the song's title suggests, "Magic" references, ahem, magic several times during it's length, where the main character says he believes in "magic" (miracles) in regards to bad events getting better.

Mood:

Downbeat: While not very depressing, the album's a notable step down from the cheerful nature of Coldplay's previous album. The album does eventually end on a note of "acceptance", which is subtle yet very effective.

-Midnight is a very edgy and dark song alluding to a faint glimmer of hope in a world filled with depression. The voice of the narrator is distorted, the atmosphere "lonely" and lyrics crying out for someone to "leave a light on" in the "darkness before the dawn."

-Another's Arms refers to the depression caused by losing a significant other in a break-up. The narrator sounds desperate at one point and the recurring "angelic" voice only adds to the sad atmosphere of the song.

-Oceans is about a man waiting for his lover to "call" him again, but she never does. This song signifies the man finally letting go of his lover.

Review of Album:

Three years and one break-up later, Coldplay returns with it's newest album Ghost Stories, attempting to undo the overproduction of Mylo Xyloto with some serious underproduction.

Jokes aside, Ghost Stories gives fans exactly what they were expecting, with a more stripped down album focusing on soft, electronic acoustic songs. This album is even softer and smaller than their debut album Parachutes and that's saying something.

In light of lead singer Chris Martin's separation from his wife of 11 years, Gwyneth Paltrow, the band decided it best for some reason to dwell on a painful event such as divorce or the end of a marriage and give us a surprisingly effective concept album focusing on...Yep, a man dealing with the end of a relationship.

The album starts softly, with Always in My Head focusing on the denial aspect relating to the break-up. It's a soft, almost cheerful yet subtly confused song. It's silently effective and a great album opener.

The second song and lead single, Magic, is a bit more desperate and slightly more brooding, yet still a bit "happy."
The song sees the narrator struggling to accept the situation, falling into the anger and denial phases of grief.

While rather un-Coldplay-like, if I were to mercilessly slay the English language in an attempt to describe my feelings about the song, Magic is easy-going, gentle and surprisingly memorable.

Next, we get the two (relatively) weakest songs on the album, Ink and True Love. Ink is a drum-based song and while it does it's simple task effectively, it falls squarely under the LEAST-MEMORABLE section of Coldplay's vast song catalogue.

True Love starts out sounding almost identical to Titanium by DJ legend David Guetta, except swapping out the bass drop for subtle drums and a haunting atmosphere, showing the narrator's descent into the bargaining phase of grief.

After these two "softies" fade away, we get the album's darkest track: Midnight. The song finds the narrator sinking into the depression phase of grief in full. The subtle atmosphere is hopeless, the electronic instruments and dark feel is heavy...and it's brilliant. By far the best song on the album and a worthy song on it's own.

Another's Arms continues the depression phase with a softer song which sees the singer desperate to renew the relationship but accepting that it won't happen. A rather intense yet soft song at the same time. Powerful stuff.

Oceans yet again features the singer in the depression stage of grief, yet the end seems to suggest acceptance. This song might just be the most emotional on the whole album, with Chris Martin's vocals suggesting that the narrator is wailing in pain.

A Sky of Full of Stars falls firmly in the acceptance phase. Stars is by far the album's most divisive song, sounding more like Avicii-lite than Coldplay. Yet, it still manages to be very catchy, uplifting and emotional all at the same time. So while Coldplay die-hards like myself may dislike the direction the band took with this song, it's still a great tune and one that I find myself listening to a lot.

O is basically the epilogue to the story, a soft song which doesn't fall into any of the grief stages, just a gentle, friendly goodbye to the relationship which brought the narrator here in the first place.

Not the biggest or grandest of albums, that's for sure, but Coldplay has always been a band who gave us songs straight from the heart, for better or for worse. Ghost Stories is the very essence of that, and nothing more.

A Rush of Blood to the Head will always be Coldplay's finest achievement and the bar against which we judge all their further accomplishments, but Ghost Stories does give us another solid album for fans to add to their music collection.

Quality Verdict: Great (B+)

Hardly Coldplay's most triumphant album nor it's weakest, Ghost Stories nonetheless makes an impact with it's stripped down, acoustic-focused direction and continues to show the world why the Britpop group is here to stay.

Conclusion:

Okay, so the big area of concern: This album is a concept album. (If you don't know what that is, it's an album where the songs all have an overarching theme or narrative. Basically, it's a "story" album.) The theme is the end of a relationship, so this is understandably not the lightest or most upbeat album you'll ever listen to.

Chris Martin's widely publicised break-up with his wife, Gwyneth Paltrow is the biggest influence on the album and it shows. Martin's depression, anger, loneliness, questioning and eventual acceptance are all conveyed through the language of music.

From a quality standpoint, it's very effective. From a "moral" standpoint, well, it is cathartic to write about your feelings or express them through art, even if those feelings may be negative, negative, or, you guessed it, negative.

Music is a powerful medium, one with the ability to move an cheerful person to a pitiful wreck of sobs with a single song. As such, I urge caution to every person seeking to buy the album. A single song can trigger a very deep depression in you if you're not careful.

Me, personally? I love this new album and while the themes are heavy, some of the songs spoke to me in regards to other areas of my life. It's actually cathartic to listen to a song which describes your feelings at the moment.

And that, my friends, is the power of music. It speaks where others are silent. It makes noise where there's normally silence. Finally, it brings out the best and the worst of human emotions and looks at them from an objective angle. Music can help us understand ourselves, and in that regard, this album really shines.

Content Verdict:
For Mature Themes

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