Setting aside any cynicism one may have about the convenience of Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow's conscious uncoupling announcement in March and its convenient timing ahead of Coldplay's sixth album release in May, listening to Ghost Stories does seem to back up Martin's claim that it was inspired by his recent life experiences.

It's a more understated, more downbeat album than 2011's Mylo Xyloto, less stadium-oriented, more melancholy and reflective, though still universal in its musings on love.

They continue to experiment with musical textures and production ideas - there's an emphasis on atmospheres, filled with quiet humming, all futuristic and spacious.

But it's still Coldplay through and through. Martin's distinctive vocals aside, there's still those ringing guitar riffs, insistent rhythmic patterns and some simple yet almighty hooks. Less "wooaaahs" all up, but then you listen to Magic, the most immediately successful track on the record, and you realise they're still using their trademarks, just more subtly.


Ink has a jaunty percussion riff and some nicely building chord progressions but these are paired with vocals that sound a little more raw and off-the-cuff than usual, which contemplate the lack of permanence and certainty when it comes to love.

There's a few pleasant yet ho-hum sort of tracks - True Love, and Another's Arms don't leave much of an impression. And A Sky Full Of Stars definitely veers too close to sounding like a Eurovision entry with its disco-ballad climax.

But there's also a couple that hint at future possibilities. Despite vocoder gimmickry, Midnight has a genuine sense of loss, and the simple repeated refrain, "leave the light on", evokes all kinds of stories about loneliness, and longing, and best intentions. And Oceans sounds like it could've been on Yellow, all vulnerable and acoustic-ish.

However, on an album that's only nine tracks and 40 minutes long, there's a little too much that's entirely predictable to be able to say Ghost Stories is Coldplay turning a new corner.

It works well as a comedown from the euphoria of Mylo Xyloto, but it might also be an album that Martin simply had to get out of his system.


Coldplay on a come-down

Click here to buy Ghost Stories by Coldplay.


- TimeOut