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Ghost Stories is Coldplay’s break-up album, made as Chris Martin’s marriage to Gwyneth Paltrow ended. Their separation, or “conscious uncoupling”, has generated some unseemly merriment, as though a family collapsing is the funniest thing; in contrast this concise nine-track record brings dignity to the subject.
“I think of you, I haven’t slept,” Chris Martin sings on “Always in My Head”, a warm bass thrumming alongside, Jonny Buckland’s guitar picking insistently at a single theme: the tone is intimate, unforced. “Ink” finds Martin going from vague platitudes (“Feels like there’s something broken inside”) to the unambiguously direct: “All I know is that I love you so.” Meanwhile a lullaby-like melody brings consolation to the singer.
This urge to console is typical, comfort being Coldplay’s stock-in-trade, the signature affect of the world’s least confrontational band. It gives Ghost Stories warmth but also makes for a one-dimensional experience.
Bar a gauche break into dance-pop with the Avicii-assisted “A Sky Full of Stars”, the music coasts by luxuriantly, not so much confronting awkward feelings as soothing them away. When a rare solo from Buckland emerges at the end of “True Love” it adds the ingredient absent elsewhere: drama.