Some things about Coldplay never change — frontman Chris Martin’s dreamy falsetto, the dramatic piano flourishes, a general air of melancholy — but the maestros of feelings-rock have never made the same album twice. There’s a restlessness to the band that most acts in their position would find both exhausting and potentially career-threatening. But rather than rewrite ”Clocks” ad infinitum, Coldplay use their self-doubt to explore new avenues. Though Brian Eno, who produced their last two efforts, isn’t here, his specter is everywhere; Ghost pushes his influence deeper into a humming, atmospheric abyss — from the twinkling drones beneath ”Midnight” to the synth-swirl outro on ”Oceans.” The moodier numbers, especially ”Midnight” and ”Ink,” masterfully subvert Martin’s haunting voice in the mix, which offers an apt metaphor for his recent separation from Gwyneth Paltrow: When the uncoupling came, he consciously got lost in the music.
In the scheme of Coldplay’s career, Ghost Stories will likely be remembered as a transitional album. This is the sound of a band paying homage to their past — particularly 2011’s hugely successful Mylo Xyloto — while pawing at the future. It’s a drowsy experience, and often a true bummer; for all his skilled self-deprecation, Martin sounds genuinely heartbroken. But Ghost Stories can’t help but feel like a prelude to something bigger and deeper. Best to check back in 2016. B