Coldplay’s newest album, A Sky Full of Stars, is a tear-stained breakup story full of blatant heartbreak ballads, starring lead singer Chris Martin and his recent breakup with wife Gwyneth Paltrow. The aptly-named album is a new direction for the UK rock band, and a far cry from the dynamic melodies and open choruses on their 2011 release, Mylo Xyloto. It is instead poignant and vulnerable, even heartbreaking at times; “I haven’t slept,” Martin cries at one juncture, “you’re always in my head.”
Martin exposes his wounds again and again, maybe most beautifully on the raw “True Love,” which is most memorable for its out of tune guitar riffs at the end. It’s almost too much to bear as he begs “so tell me you love me, if you don’t then lie.” The lovesick lyrics continue on “Another’s Arms.” The track is haunting, almost a little strange with all of its elements, from the synths and whooshing keys to the stuttering drums and randomly echoing phantom-like female voice.
The Bon Iver-esque crooning is once again present on “Oceans,” featuring acoustic guitar and electronic drum beats. The song follows the album’s suit by keeping the tempo slow and the lyrics desperate, ending with the double-edged assertion that “you’ve got to find yourself alone in this world.”
The album’s lyrics, while despondent and bruised, avoid getting too dark. “Midnight,” though, is shadowy with its cold and simple synths. Some "ravey" piano chords break up the middle of the song and add anxiety to the darkness, fitting nicely with Martin’s distorted vocals.
They save the most upbeat song for almost-last; the Avicii-produced track “A Sky Full of Stars” is a shred of hope amidst nine despairing tracks and offers a little of the old Coldplay danceability. They finish it off with “O,” a gentle piano ballad where Martin compares love to a flock of birds; “one minute they arrive, next you know they’re gone, they fly on.” He manages to make that sound like sad acceptance rather than cynicism.
Although the synthy melodies on Ghost Stories sometimes didn’t feel deep enough to do Martin’s heartache complete justice, the lyrical sincerity makes up for it, and there are some arresting moments throughout. The album overall isn’t wildly different or overly energetic, but it is beautifully vulnerable, exquisitely produced and a wonderful addition to the ranks of the memorable breakup albums. We all need our fix of depressingly relatable tear-inducing ballads every now and then, so go ahead and download it.
Edited by Valerie Reich
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