Published May 16, 2014When we got our first taste of Ghost Stories with "Midnight," it seemed as though the band was shedding its tried-and-true brand of anthemic alt rock and taking a note from the book of Bon Iver, with an eerie build-up that never quite resolves and vocoder that perfectly fits Chris Martin's soft coos. If you were hoping the rest of Ghost Stories would shatter the Coldplay mould, keep waiting. The other eight tracks do little to differentiate themselves from the band's recent records (especially 2011's Mylo Xyloto), with tracks flooded with electronic beats, mood-setting synths and shimmering guitars backing Martin's falsetto.
That's not to say that this album doesn't have its highlights, however: "Another's Arms" features a glorious climax of guitars, vocals and diving synth drones, while "Oceans" delicately mixes the old and the new, with an acoustic guitar strumming chords to a synthetic string section and robotic bleeps and bloops. Immediately after that, the album takes an unusual turn, jumping into the surprisingly dance floor-ready and somewhat jarring "A Sky Full of Stars," sounding like a club remix of a moodier song before closing with "O." Thanks to its gorgeous production, each song is lush and vibrant, perfectly suiting itself to a good pair of headphones and an evening spent staring at the ceiling.
Still, Ghost Stories ultimately feels like an incomplete transitional album. It has brief sparks of a fresh creativity and has plenty of potential, but doesn't take steps bold enough to totally reinvent itself, making for a record littered with moments that let it sink into the forgettable parts of the band's catalogue. It may, however, be a step towards something truly revolutionary for the English quartet. (Warner)