26 May 2014

MUSIC: Ghost Stories

1. Always in My Head - 9/10
Coldplay's first non-instrumental opener for nine years, Always in My Head is a very strong track that plays disconcertingly on the senses to create the illusion of loss right from the off. Martin's simplistic approach to lyric-writing for this album is perhaps at its strongest here, and his vocals are particularly strong. Overall, this is a fantastic track underscored by a warm hug from Champion, Berryman and Buckland.

2. Magic - 6/10
I absolutely adore the guitar sections (bass, electric and acoustic) of this, but I feel the lyrics and piano melodies spoil what was a great concept by Guy. The end when the euphoric climax comes into play is just joyous, and almost forgives the last few minutes. This and the over-exposure on the radio leave me feeling a bit cold about this song. The video is great though. I feel we could have got a Midnight-like track had Magic stuck to its origins, which would have been great.

3. Ink - 9.5/10
This and True Love were the only songs not publicly available prior to the iTunes stream, and I guessed at least one would be a single in the future. I can't call for now which that will be, but still stick to that idea. The only thing that I can criticise with Ink (great title, by the way) is the opening line. I love the structure, and every part. This feels deep rooted in the Viva era, with strokes of Strawberry Swing and Rainy Day not hidden particularly well. This is a brilliant think, and as such this is one of my favourite tracks on Ghost Stories (amongst some strong competitors).

4. True Love - 9.5/10
Every time I hear this, I can't help but think that it feels like an updated incarnation of The Scientist. I adore this song, I only wish the guitar solo was only discordant the once. Aside from that, this is beautiful and highly affecting. True Love seems to sum up the overall message of the album and incorporates elements from every corner of its catalogue. A very special song that says volumes in the way on Coldplay can.

5. Midnight - 10/10
I do realise this is layered quite flatly onto Jon Hopkins' The Fourth State II / Amphora, but I adore it. The lyrics are very strong, despite being relatively simplistic. I love the pounding beat towards the end, and especially the bass throughout. This is possibly my favourite new song live as well, check out their performance in the Ghost Stories film - Will plays the Reactable as well as drums and Guy and Chris play laser harps (although I'm not sure how much the latter 'plays').

6. Another's Arms - 9/10
A haunting, aching vocal sample from Jane Weaver underpins the sixth track. Martin sings of loneliness and longs for company; it would seem at the midpoint of the album the lyrics switch perspective from trying to prevent a breakup to trying to rekindle a failed relationship. Although they may sound similar, the latter shouts of apology and regret. This is prevalent in Another's Arms, which again features a very strong, cohesive effort from every member.

7. Oceans - 5/10
This is a confused track for me. Being slightly synaesthetic, the word Oceans (brilliant title) seems blue to me, whilst the song itself feels green. This won't make sense to most people, but it leaves me a bit unemotive as it feels like it's pulling in two directions. Harking back to the blander moments of Parachutes, the only truly enjoyable section of the song is its climax and the final line as Martin strums the final chord. The interlude between tracks seven and eight earns it an extra point.

8. A Sky Full of Stars - 7/10
This feels like it had the potential to be a great track. If only it had a second verse instead of the first 'burst', and featuring a singalong section towards the climax, it could have been much more successful in my opinion. It's not bad, but as it is it feels a tad incomplete. The live version is far superior to the studio track as well, especially in the drum and lead guitar sections. Saying that, the bass is great here. If this and Oceans could switch styles, I think it would benefit both immensely. This also feels like it's a lacking a proper ending, and could do with something akin to Violet Hill, Charlie Brown or White Shadows. In any case, the transition into Fly On is too sudden and abrupt.

9. (Fly On +) O - 10/10
No particular part of O makes my heart ache, but the overall feeling welling up inside me as we reach the "ride through" section is unbeatably affecting. I interpret Ghost Stories as a record about death and losing someone you love very dearly (possibly due to my own recent experiences) and this is the pinnacle of that story. I do feel more closure as a result of this album, and it came at just the right time. The vocals of Apple, Moses and Mabel on O are beautiful and spell out my emotions much better than I ever could. This closer is an absolute masterpiece.


Top Three Songs:
O, Midnight, Ink

Despite what I've said above, I think it's impossible to skip a track on this album. It's the most cohesive effort they've produced and that's why A Sky Full of Stars works so well in context. In isolation, it's a short adrenalin burst that doesn't amount to much. Taken as a section of a whole story, it signals a relief and finally letting go - an outpouring of emotion and desperation you won't find anywhere else on Ghost Stories. It tells much the same message as Oceans, but in a radically different fashion. This feels like one long track rather than ten separate songs.

If you bought the album from Target in America, you got any extra three tracks. I've included these in their own section, but still consider them part of the album proper.

10. All Your Friends - 7.5/10
The deepest song of the deluxe edition, All Your Friends is undoubtedly a re-emboided lost song from the Rush of Blood sessions. While it's not bad by any stretch, it doesn't knock my socks off like it feels it's supposed to. I really like the "open fire" section, but the rest doesn't feel like it fits with the album (despite the impression of desertion). It's more disconnected than Midnight, which is saying something.

11. Ghost Story - 8.5/10
With undeniable overtones of Sleeping Sun, Ghost Story also feels out of place with the main album body. I like it a lot, but not the transition into each chorus. It has some of the strongest lyrics from these sessions, and encapsulates the Ghost Stories message (unsurprisingly) without continuing the tone. It feels right at home with All Your Friends though, and the restart two-thirds of the way through is awesome, recalling X&Y like it's 2005. The ending is amazing as well.

12. O (reprise) - 9.5/10
A staggeringly affecting and different embodiment of the O theme, this is just as perfect as the sounds included at the top of the album and in O. The guitar section reminds me heavily of Lana Del Ray's stunning Summertime Sadness. While I'd like it to be longer, it serves its purpose. In fact that's the only negative point I can justifiably level at this track - it needs to be longer. Even just breaking the two minute mark (but preferably about 2:30) would improve it to a perfect score. Some of the best music on the (deluxe) album, and capping off the era well. I don't expect to get any more music from these sessions, with the next album reportedly scheduled for 2015. This feels like a complete entity of work that follows linearly from start to finish. Anything else might spoil that.

Deluxe Tracks Average:

Deluxe Edition Average:

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