Broken-hearted Coldplay

SOUNDS FAMILIAR - Baby A. Gil (The Philippine Star) - June 27, 2014 - 12:00am

I have long ago ceased looking for logic and reason in song and album titles. You just make of them what you want. But this one is all so strange. The title of the album is Ghost Stories. On the cover is a pair of wings. Angel or fairy, I do not know. These are floating, unattached on a dark blue, star-studded sky. Note that this is what you see if you take the CD box in your hands and take a closer look.

However, a passing, perfunctory glance shows instead what looks like a broken heart. Could those wings be actually two pieces of a broken heart? Given this, I see no way this cover and title can be dismissed as just another one of those inspired though meaningless meanderings commonly heard from a British band. Everything about this cover and the contents of the album just begs to be discussed.

Ghost Stories is the latest release by the hit-making British band Coldplay and you all know that Coldplay has Chris Martin for its pianist and lead vocalist. Martin has been married for nearly 10 years to the movie star and Academy award-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow. She was in the Iron Man flicks and appears in the TV series Glee, where she also sings.

Martin and Paltrow have recently announced that they are getting a divorce. Now unless you are Kim Kardashian, divorce takes a long time coming. So there is a strong probability that Martin was writing and recording the songs in Ghost Stories while nursing a broken heart and incubating a divorce action. Ouch! So can you blame curious folks like me for thinking that this is a broken-hearted album?

If I am not mistaken, Ghost Stories is Coldplay’s sixth studio album and the follow-up to MyloXyloto from three years ago. Remarkably, this is a band that has remained intact over the years and playing in Ghost Stories are the same guys who created the phenomenal Parachutes of 14 years ago. Martin on piano and vocals; Jonny Buckland on guitar; Guy Berryman on bass; and Will Champion on drums. Coldplay is known for emotional, melodic rock music.

I do not know if the term originated with them but the group is certainly the most successful progenitor of emo rock. Other bands think it is cool to hang back on feelings, but Coldplay lets everything hang out. Now, because the band members are considered too romantic for comfort, Coldplay music has not been popular with hardened, cynical rockers. Thankfully, there are not too many of them and Coldplay has not stopped making the kind of dreamy tunes that its fans love. And I must say that Ghost Stories is the dreamiest of them all.

Always In My Head, a simmering rocker, sets the tone of the album. It provides just the right intro for the second cut and first single release, the lilting finger-snapper Magic, which is the most commercial of the batch. Ink keeps up the light mood that broadens little by little like a sky opening up through True Love, Midnight, Another’s Arms, and Oceans.

By the time you get to the uplifting A Sky Full Of Stars, you have already experienced an addicting, meditation on heartbreak. This closes with the haunting O with the silent invitation to be played again, to feel the pain again and again. So is this music for the broken-hearted? I do not know what Coldplay or Martin solo says but Ghost Stories is the sort of album that the broken-hearted can wallow in. And aren’t we glad there are lots of love-tortured souls around. If it were otherwise, Coldplay will not be making hits like this.

Of course, the band’s success also owes a lot to the members. Their playing, particularly in the album, is so cohesive that I refuse to imagine the disaster it would be should they lose one guy and need to get a replacement. And then there is Martin’s singing, a powerful, sexy, melancholy whisper. That is the sound of Coldplay and it sounds sadder here, singing about its ghosts.

As the great Danish storyteller Hans Christian Andersen once said, “When words fail, music speaks.” Ghost Stories speaks volumes.

P.S. Do keep the CD playing after O has ended. There is a nice little surprise hiding inside.

Meanwhile, here are the 20 top-selling albums for the week in Billboard Magazine’s Top 200 albums listing. Ghost Stories remains in the Top 10 after four weeks in the chart:

Lazaretto by Jack White; Platinum by Miranda Lambert; Frozen, the motion picture soundtrack; Just As I Am by Brantley Gilbert; The Fault In Our Stars, the movie soundtrack featuring various artists; Now 50 by Various Artists; Ghost Stories by Coldplay; Turn Blue by The Black Keys; Xscape by Michael Jackson; Now That’s What I Call Country: Volume 7 by Various Artists.

Crash My Party by Luke Bryan; Whispers by Passenger; The Rockville LP by O.A.R.; Count Me In by Rebelution; Animal Ambition: An Untamed Desire To Win by 50 Cent; Led Zeppelin by Led Zeppelin; Here’s To The Good Times by the Florida Georgia Line; Blood For Blood by HellYeah; The Outsiders by Eric Church; and Led Zeppelin II also by Led Zeppelin.

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