I may not like all of the production touches on Ghost Stories, but there is no denying that this big-budget album sounds absolutely incredible. This is pretty much as sweet as ear candy gets, as audiophile-grade albums go, and while some of the music (particularly the track “A Sky Full of Stars”) verges on saccharine, it’s still remarkably palatable and the engineering is downright exceptional. Of course, Coldplay are nothing if not palatable — they’re easily the 21st century’s most internationally successful rock band, and have made a career of trying to be a band for everyone. I have never really been much of a Coldplay guy — my favorite Coldplay album is their first one, Parachutes, which singer Chris Martin has in the years since its release referred to as “terrible music,” surprisingly — and I never really listened to 2011‘s Mylo Xyloto much at all aside from the really good single “Paradise,” but I do like the band, even if for some reason I feel like I’m not supposed to.
Oddly, Coldplay is the biggest band in the world without really being considered a cool band; they appeal more to general taste. I’m sure they have dedicated fans, but these fans don’t appear to be all that musically sophisticated, since I pretty much never come across them even when my music discussion circle extends pretty far beyond the most esoteric and acclaimed artists. In truth, Coldplay is a pop act — rock audiences (at least in America) tend not to think they have much of an edge — and is marketed as such. The rock radio scene has more or less been a wasteland for well over a decade now, and Coldplay pretty much has the benefit of not needing rock radio at all anymore — they’re one of the few rock bands in the alternative scene that routinely chart in the top half (or even inside the top twenty) of the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States.
True to form, they have managed this feat with three singles from Ghost Stories: “Magic” peaked at #14, “Midnight” topped out at #29, and “A Sky Full of Stars” reached #10. Even with its broad appeal, the album never feels generic, in part because Chris Martin actually does have some personality and isn’t faceless on record in the slightest. “A Sky Full of Stars,” however, while not quite generic, still feels like a generic Coldplay song, which is actually pretty odd since it was co-produced (and co-written) by the EDM DJ Avicii. Also a bit of a head scratcher is the apparent Bon Iver influence — “Midnight” is a dead ringer for “Wash.” on 2011’s Bon Iver — but this doesn’t make Ghost Stories any less listenable, and or even less enjoyable.
Fact is, this is a solid album with some standout tracks — “Midnight” is one of them, though “Magic,” “Another’s Arms” and “Oceans” are my favorites — and is more interesting than anything Coldplay has done since 2002’s A Rush of Blood to the Head. Give it a go.