Ghost Stories

Ghost Stories

It was halfway through the tour to support 2011’s Mylo Xyloto that someone pointed Chris Martin in the direction of The Guest House, a poem by the 13th- century mystic Rumi. Its concept—that whatever is happening to you in life, if you sit with it, somehow a blessing will reveal itself—chimed with Martin as he struggled to find a way through tough times. It sparked a whole new way of thinking for him and resulted in Ghost Stories, Coldplay’s most cathartic and intimate record. Written and recorded as Martin navigated his way through a separation from wife Gwyneth Paltrow—or, as they put it, a “conscious uncoupling”—and the aftermath, everything about Ghost Stories felt like a deviation from what had come to be defined as standard practice on a Coldplay album. Bar a few one-off shows, there was no accompanying tour and so no ecstatic stadium sing-alongs—plus there were no big anthems to sing along with, anyway (well, almost). The thinking went that, as these songs were dealing with such personal issues, it felt natural to make Ghost Stories a more intimate and quiet record. In that sense, it presented an intriguing, inside-out version of the band who had become masters of music as a communal, jubilant experience. Recorded mostly at the band’s own studios in North London, it showed that Coldplay could still astonish even when stripped of all the bells and whistles. The mournful, slow-motion glide of “Always in My Head” set the tone for the record’s considered vibe but, musically, there was still a compelling restlessness at work: new flavours on the folktronica groove of “Ink,” “Midnight”’s ambient soundscapes, and the minimalist soul of “Magic.” Even on more familiar ground, there was a poignancy at play—the solemn acoustic strums of “Oceans” sound like Chris Martin trying to reach out to his younger, Parachutes-era self to ask him what the hell happened. Because they like to keep people on their toes, right in the middle of all this pensive brooding is “A Sky Full of Stars,” an out-and-out piano-rave banger that they made with late superstar DJ Avicii. It was a record that emotionally cleared the decks for Martin and Coldplay and they jumped straight into their next album, 2015’s A Head Full of Dreams, without taking a break. Ghost Stories was the pit stop that allowed them to take stock and work out where to go next.

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