To be honest, I've seen people dismissing remarks about this album (mainly Pitchfork Media’s review) but I guess the only way to say it is to take in a little bit of the good and bad. I don't know why I'm discussing this on a Coldplay review, but hey, enjoy the music. And here we go.
Let's accept that Ghost Stories was never near the album I felt it was meant to be: the over-produced synth and sounds meshed to be quite a very mediocre album. That's not to say there weren't hits on the record -- there were, which is what I felt could've been much more than what was released. Magic and A Sky Full of Stars definitely was quite a problem to add on to the track-list.
A year later and it's here again, with Chris Martin no longer having the emotional setback that had plagued the production of Ghost Stories, and rather launching at grandiose thoughts and nuance that definitely sounds like a Spielberg piece both audibly and lyrically on the newer record, A Head Full of Dreams. Does it hold up well?
I think coming from Ghost Stories may have made this album a little better considering the major expansion in sound. Percussion and loud synths prove that Coldplay still has a pretty sweet knack with a whack at the bigger picture, while the lesser drawn portraits don't really have as much attention focused on them, and that seems to be quite a problem.
The first half of this album felt like being strapped onto a roller coaster ride as it rolls down while the second half of the album is trying to reach back to the heights prior. I'm not saying that the 2nd half of the album was bad, but similar to Ghost Stories, it was pretty underwhelming.
The lead single, Adventure of a Lifetime, definitely sheds a ton of colours production-wise and Martin's vocals don't seem to feel suppressed and allows him to grow into the song as it goes on. The atmosphere and sound in general definitely felt like it was more concise, and it happens regularly to some of the other songs such as Hymn for the Weekend, of which I think could quite be one of the best songs on the album.
There’s a ton of fun to be had with this album due to the explosions of melody coming out of nowhere when the percussion crunches and the guitars string into high authority, but at the same time it was lacking a little bit of something. Songs like Fun featuring Tove Lo, who does good but not great, feels overwhelming as an emotional piece of reminiscence, but doesn’t lend itself into the overarching vision of the album, especially following up Adventure of a Lifetime.
To say that I enjoyed this album a little more than Ghost Stories might be true, but I can see why the appeal of the successor became more prominent as the album rolled on. It seemed like the band wanted to make an album that fleshed out their melodic thoughts, turning air bubbles into long pieces of music, but at the same time taking what made them popular and combining it. Needless to say, it doesn’t work quite well.
I’ve seen and heard people discuss about the song Up&Up, and while I enjoyed it, I never felt attached to it. It gained steam and grew as the minutes went by, but it also didn’t hit the pinnacle that I felt would’ve been deserving for the song. It was a good song, don’t get me wrong, but nothing more than that. The same also applies to Amazing Day and Army of One, whereas the 2 other interludes of Kaleidoscope and Colour Spectrum could've been replaced with songs rather than having them to bridge a small gap.
This is not a bad album per se, once you look back on the overall tone of the album you start to realise that Ghost Stories was merely a launchpad or a stepping stone for the band to climb on. However, while making distinctive steps forward, it seems that they felt like it was needed to hold on to their old hits. While some may see it as fan service, I would’ve expected a little bit more. Nonetheless, one of their other colourful album, Mylo Xyloto, does much better than A Head Full of Dreams and Ghost Stories. And there were fans who criticised that album, for good reason.
It’s an above average album, and a great listen for the Coldplay fans who felt that they wanted more from the predecessor record. That said, it’s an improvement albeit not very major.
Essentials: Hymn for the Weekend
Favourites: Adventure of a Lifetime, A Head Full of Dreams, Birds
Least Favourites: Amazing Day, Army of One
Benny Ong: Just your regular guy who likes soccer more than most people, and also a little downtime is pretty nice.