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Adam’s Top 100 of 2014: #05 – Coldplay, “A Sky Full Of Stars”

The cream of the pop!

The cream of the pop for 2014.

Another year is in the books and it’s time for the annual listing of the 100 biggest songs that ranked among my weekly top 40 chart from December 2013 to November 2014. It was magical year full of MAGIC! and “Magic” and a lovely twelve months of lovable hits from James Blunt and The Fray. We went “home” with A Great Big World and Andy Grammer, spun around in a “dance” with Milky Chance and Walk The Moon and ended up here with all that was awesome in the year we called 2014.

Peak positions listed are as of the last chart included in the year dated November 30, 2014. Those entries marked with a plus sign (+) had not yet reached their peak position as of the date. Ties in points were broken based on peak, number of weeks at peak and number of weeks in the top 40.

Keep reaching for the "Stars".

Keep reaching for the “Stars”.

005. COLDPLAY, “A Sky Full Of Stars” (733 points)
Writers: Tim Bergling, Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland, Will Champion, Chris Martin / Producers: Bergling, Berryman, Buckland, Champion, Martin, Paul Epworth, Daniel Green, Rik Simpson
Label: Parlophone/Atlantic

Debut Date: May 4, 2014
Peak Date: July 6 to 27, 2014
Peak: #1 for four weeks
Weeks on Chart: 28

If you were expecting this band’s Ghost Stories album to be a cheery and energetic effort, then I’m afraid you may have been disappointed when hearing it in full. Written and recorded in the middle of a conscious uncoupling between lead singer Chris Martin and wife Gwyneth Paltrow, the songs are largely reflective of that mood, both experimental and particularly stripped back in arrangement. Yet, there was a spark in one track, and with the work of one of dance music’s top producers, positivity pulled through and launched their sound into the stratosphere.

After “Magic” quickly rose to #1 for three weeks before collapsing, “Sky” took slightly more time to reach the top and held it there for four weeks in July, giving the quartet their longest running #1 since 2011’s “Paradise”, which also spent four frames in the position. In many territories, it was the their biggest hit since the massive “Viva La Vida” in the summer of 2008. Did it irk some fans that the band released a full-on EDM track? Of course. However, I was really into it, and the seven months that the song spent in my top 40 is a strong indication of its impact.

2015 could mark the final studio album for the band. Martin revealed that its title is A Head Full Of Dreams, though a release date is not set in stone as of yet. Meanwhile, the four guys are still charting in some countries with “Ink” and a soundtrack cut called “Miracles”, taken from the Angelina Jolie directed film Unbroken. Their presence isn’t going away anytime soon, even if their original material does. (I’m sure that much could change as well. Stay tuned.)

Check back tomorrow for next part of the top ten on the year-end chart and let me know what you’re liking so far below!

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ALBUM REVIEW: Coldplay – Ghost Stories

Viva la Coldplay.

Viva la Coldplay.

Conscious uncoupling: Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin and then-wife Gwyneth Paltrow ignited that term when it was used to describe their separation earlier this year, but it can be applied just as much to Martin’s band. The playful pop sounds of their last two albums are nothing more than a breakup to write about, replaced with the more atmospheric and contemplative themes of Ghost Stories, released on Parlophone/Atlantic this Monday. Finding itself somewhere between a breakup album and an effort with a hint of opportunity, this nine song collection (twelve on the Target deluxe) goes for the personal, but personally, isn’t even close to what I was looking for out of their latest material. This isn’t to say what the  group has written and recorded is subpar, but enduring classics they are not.

The album begins with the soothing “Always In My Head”, which begins with a series of chants before transitioning into a moody rocker. It feels incomplete at just one verse and one chorus, Martin repeatedly singing to his love, “you’re always in my head.” Also sparsely written is the first radio single from the project, “Magic”, a beautifully simple composition that gently eases along. This tale ends on a hopeful note: “If you were to ask me/After all that we’ve been through/Still believe in magic/Oh, yes I do… of course I do.” Picking up the pace from there is third cut “Ink”, one of the stronger tracks of the set, which picks up the pace from the solidly slow beginning. The optimism of a romance is likened to “carving your name with a pocket knife”, although Martin indicates that his relationship now “feels like there’s something broken inside.”

Fourth track “True Love” is also a welcome treat, which comes off as a sequel to the quartet’s 2013 soundtrack single from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, “Atlas”. Though the request to “tell me you love me” and “If you don’t, then lie to me” isn’t particularly convincing, the song as a whole is pleasant. The pre-release track “Midnight” follows in the fifth slot in a minimalist fashion, reminiscent of the mid-to-late 1970’s Peter Gabriel catalog. Martin subjects us to passionate longing once more in “Another’s Arms”, in which he wishes “that you were here beside me” as he watches the tube in the wee hours of the morning. I hope he isn’t tuned into reruns of Divorce Court (or the umpteenth airing of Country Strong.)

The final three tracks in the set, if not the best of the bunch, certainly provide an interesting experience for the listener. It advances with the acoustic-based “Oceans”: think of it as the “God Put A Smile Upon Your Face” of Ghost Stories. Perhaps the most intriguing part about is the coda which leads into a full outro, a chaotic assembly of crashing waves, bells ringing in reverse and more. It transitions nicely into the second radio single and obvious hit of the bunch, “A Sky Full Of Stars”, co-produced by Avicii. Even more dance-oriented than 2011’s “Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall”, the song is uplifting and the only real hyper positive moment on here. That, of course, means we end on a downer: “O”, the piano-heavy ballad that delicately unwinds to the calls of Martin to “fly on” as “a flock of birds”. It has single potential down the line.

If the days of Parachutes and A Rush Of Blood To The Head are more up your alley, then the finely crafted tunes of Ghost Stories, subtleties and all, will probably appeal more to you than the casual fan of “Viva La Vida”. It’s certainly not lacking in terms of inspiration, but given the jump from the pop-driven Mylo Xyloto to this, the experience isn’t wholly satisfying. Then again, one could argue that the concept of adoration isn’t either. Love on the rocks ain’t no big surprise, and neither are the sales that come along with the hype of an act like Coldplay. Though this album’s start will likely be slower and not as impressive in the long run, there are a few songs on here that could drive numbers up.

There’s unfinished business to be had, but I’m sure it’ll be years before anything new is ready for our consumption. Until then, get a good bookmark. You may find yourself coming back to these Stories when you least expect it.

(Stream and purchase Ghost Stories on iTunes)

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