Coldplay’s Ghost Stories: What You Need To Know
Three years on from 2011’s Mylo Xyloto, Coldplay are back with studio album No.6, the much less confusingly titled Ghost Stories. Here’s everything you need to know…
What’s the background?
Having originally intended Mylo Xyloto to be a more stripped back affair, by the time the album was finished it had turned out rather differently to how they envisioned it: it had, if anything, even bigger, more euphoric anthems than their previous studio effort, 2008’s Viva La Vida. So, having resolved to re-attempt this concept with a ‘right, this time we mean it’ mentality, they went back into the studio last year, telling BBC Radio 2’s Jo Whiley that: “There’s only so far you can go without becoming pompous and a bit overblown, so we’ll tread that line very carefully. Reset. Recalibrate.”
Between then and now it was also announced that singer Chris Martin had split from his wife Gwyneth Paltrow - something the actress described as a ‘conscious uncoupling’ – indicating that we could be in for quite a melancholy affair.
Having described some of their early studio experiments for the album as ‘self-indulgent’ and ‘awful’, the band wiped the slate clean, refocused and started over. By February this year a video for ‘Midnight’ had surfaced and the new track did indeed appear to have a more stripped back vibe to it, albeit one augmented with a bit of a dance music influence. Of the two tracks that have surfaced since, ‘Magic’ also hinted at the more mellow, stripped back sound to be found on Ghost Stories – although guest producer Avicii’s input can unquestionably be heard on ‘A Sky Full of Stars’, a much more upbeat moment on the album.
Who’s producing it?
Not including the band members, all of whom are credited as co-producers, as many as seven different producers have worked on the album. These include the aforementioned Avicii, Daniel Green, Timbaland, Hugo Leclercq and Jon Hopkins, as well as Rik Simpson, who has worked on many of the band’s previous LPs, and Paul Epworth, the man behind the desk for Adele’s 21. Quite a squeeze given the fact there are only nine tracks on the new album.
What are the standout tracks?
‘A Sky Full of Stars’ is easily the most upbeat track on Ghost Stories and by far the most likely to be heard on a dancefloor anytime soon. ‘Magic’ features some lo-fi sounding drum machine sounds that augment its chiming piano riff and ‘Ink’ sees Martin singing about the pain associated with tattoos which, one would suspect, is a reference to his troubled relationship. If there’s blood on the tracks though, it isn’t splattered everywhere, and while tracks like ‘Oceans’ and the closing number ‘O’ definitely have a melancholy tinge to them, it’s presented in a very melodic way, awash with choral arrangements and reverb-drenched pianos, not to mention Jonny Buckland’s signature, echoing guitars. Overall though, the slowly evolving groove of 'Midnight' is probably the album’s strongest moment.
Does it deliver?
While Ghost Stories is by no means a radical departure from the rest of their back catalogue, it does represent a shift downward through the gears and hints at a slightly more experimental approach. Coldplay do seem to polarise opinion quite a bit and, let’s be honest, they were never going to do anything so dangerous as to risk alienating their considerable fan base.
That said, the change in pace is refreshing and while it doesn’t contain many of the stomping anthems they’ve become known for with their last three or four albums, otherwise the feel is very much the familiar Coldplay formula. Fans of the band won’t be too disappointed, the band’s detractors probably won’t like it or, more likely, won’t care either way. When the album inevitably shifts the kind of unit numbers most artists can only dream of, we suspect Coldplay won’t be too disappointed either.
Ghost Stories will be available from hmv stores and to downnload from Monday May 19th