On the Goe: Coldplay’s ‘Ghost Stories’ has new insight

Due out this Monday, May 19, is one of 2014’s most hotly anticipated albums from one of music’s more reliable outfits, Coldplay.

“Ghost Stories,” the band’s sixth studio album, marks somewhat of a transition period for the Brit band. While it has remained one of music’s most popular bands, this album moves away from big arena anthems and into a much more subdued and introspective space.

At first listen it’s hard to know what to think about the new album. The lead single “Magic” is a very Coldplay-ish style track: airy guitars, understated percussion and ringing piano chords. Chris Martin’s falsetto is again the highlight, delivering lines with an air of romanticism and wit, in a way only he can.

As with most Coldplay songs, Martin’s voice cuts right to the heart and the overall impression of “Magic” is one familiar with fans of the band, melancholy.

Tempting as its been to compare Coldplay to the gold standard for rock bands, Radiohead, Coldplay has never quite reached that level of creativity nor taken the necessary risks to make that comparison apt until possibly now.

“Midnight,” the standout track for me on “Ghost Stories,” is a hypnotic tune and comes very close to achieving the underground atmospheric tones of Radiohead’s “Kid A.”

Coldplay always has been able to emotionally connect through its music and “Midnight” highlights that strength perfectly. The mood created for the listener in the nearly five-minute track is simply astonishing and worth multiple listens.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, there is “A Sky Full of Stars” that is, how do you say, disappointing. For a band that cut its teeth on moody piano-based Brit rock to release a house tune just feels wrong and out of place.

Coldplay does not need to reduce itself to making generic house music, which leads me to think “A Sky Full of Stars” was strongly influenced by Coldplay’s record company Parlophone Records (owned by the evil empire Warner Music Group), and is earmarked as the second, more radio-friendly single.

Leading up to “Ghost Stories,” Coldplay has been one of those exceptional bands, making music that was increasingly ambitious and trend-setting for the industry. It was and is a band equally liked by critics, hipsters and cool dads.

From 2000’s “Parachutes” to 2011’s “Mylo Xyloto,” the band has released a decade’s worth of respectable music. In fact, Coldplay has produced music good enough to overlook the insufferable moments of Martin’s personal life, mainly dooming a child to years of ridicule by naming her Apple and coming up with the phrase “conscious uncoupling.”

Where the band goes from here, though, is a bit of a mystery. From Martin’s guest appearance on the singing competition show “The Voice” to the band’s NBC primetime TV special on Sunday, May 18, (which I can’t wait to see), its exposure is at an all time high.

It begs the question though, is the band primed for the next level of superstardom?

Rolling Stone Magazine penned a news article implying that “Ghost Stories” is the only album that can save bottom lines this year. It has already fared well. Presales already have made it the No. 3 album on the iTunes charts, but based on what I’ve heard, “Ghost Stories” is not going to be the smash hit that saves the industry from declining record sales — they are already down 16 percent this year.

Ultimately, “Ghost Stories” is a nice album that will play well with the band’s base, but it will not be the emphatic statement the music industry is hoping for, leaving it, I’m sure, shaking in its boots.

Read more from David Goe at the Music on the Goe blog at GJSentinel.com. Goe is a programmer for KAFM 88.1 Community Radio. His show airs at 9 p.m. the first Friday and first Saturday of each month. You can email Goe at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or follow him on Twitter at @David_Goe.


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