Coldplay preps new album ‘Ghost Stories’

By Nathan Frontiero

Dave Wright/KRT/MCT
Dave Wright/KRT/MCT

 

They are finally back. In the early hours of the morning after the Oscars, Coldplay quietly announced that their new album, “Ghost Stories,” is set for a May 19 release. This reveal follows the band’s surprise release of a new track, “Midnight,” just a week prior.

The new material is the first heard from the band since last November, when they contributed the song “Atlas” to “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” official soundtrack. Fans speculated over whether “Atlas” was indicative of the band returning to their earlier sound, since the simpler, piano-based track would not have sounded out of place on their 2002 release, “A Rush of Blood to the Head.” It is clear now, however, that these four earnest chaps from London have again pushed themselves into an entirely new direction.

Coldplay is not a band known for staying sonically in place. Their first three albums, which they’ve deemed a “trilogy” of sorts, nonetheless progress slightly from one to the next. The aforementioned “Rush of Blood to the Head” added some more piano rock to the mellow, acoustic foundation of their debut, “Parachutes,” while 2005’s “X & Y” introduced more keyboards into their melodies. The band broke their mold with their fourth album, 2008’s “Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends,” by blending their emerging arena rock with a lively world music vibe. Coldplay could very easily have released another album exactly like “Viva La Vida” and sold millions of copies without much difficulty, but instead they gave the world “Mylo Xyloto.” The (admittedly) nonsensically titled album, the band’s fifth, unabashedly delved into a heavily pop-influenced sound—one track featured a duet with Rihanna—and proved, despite some backlash from critics and fans alike, that the band is committed to constantly evolving their sound.

So here we find ourselves in 2014, with new experiences, new potentially-ignored resolutions and now, a new sound from Coldplay. “Midnight” dropped without any notice beyond a cryptic tweet from the band’s manager, Phil Harvey, in the form of a trippy, otherworldly music video that fit in well with the band’s bizarre new sound. Produced by frequent collaborator Jon Hopkins, “Midnight” is a slow burning, ethereal track. Synthesizers shimmer delicately with Chris Martin’s vocals, which are both soulful and almost incomprehensible underneath several layers of vocoder. The song builds through its unconventional structure and sparse lyrics to a skittering synthesizer interlude that wouldn’t be out of place on an EDM track, before disappearing into its own haunting aural mist.

“Magic,” the new album’s official lead single, is closer to the Coldplay that fans have come to know and love, but it too lives within the world of this new sound. Starting with a pulsating electronic drumbeat and bass, it shifts into an R&B style groove with ambient keyboard accents before building to an acoustic-electric guitar crescendo. Chris Martin’s simple, romantic lyrics are completely clear here, and the singer sounds laid-back. He delivers lines like “Call it magic / when I’m with you” with an ease that flows well with the track. The production is rich and nuanced, with reverb shimmering over the building guitars and slight echoes jumping off of Martin’s piano inflections. About two–thirds of the way through the track the singer shifts into his falsetto, and the listener is suddenly reminded of that signature sound that has come to unify Coldplay’s music throughout every stage of their career.

What else can be expected from “Ghost Stories” this May? The track listing also includes song titles like “Always In My Head,” “Ink,” and “Another’s Arms,” so listeners may likely find more romantic themes running throughout the new album. There are only nine tracks, inviting speculation about the song length. The two songs dropped are both right around the five-minute mark, but Coldplay have also proven more than capable of releasing shorter, radio-friendly songs. Time will tell whether “Ghost Stories” consists of mainly longer, introspective tracks, or if it’s a varied collection in length and structure. “Midnight” and “Magic” are very different tracks both in form and theme, but they each offer an exciting preview at the band’s new sound. Fans will be waiting eagerly to hear the musical stories that Coldplay has left to tell this year.

Nathan Frontiero can be reached at [email protected]