Here’s where that adage “writing about music is like dancing about architecture” really kicks in. To say that Explosions in the Sky’s music connects on an emotional level may strike some as linguistic laziness. But that’s really the heart of the argument. Without lyrics to connect to the verbal cortex, the band members have to aim for other nerve centers. Largely, their direction is spot on.
To critique a band that eschews vocals isn’t easy. Without words, the focus falls on instrumental ups and downs. With Explosions in the Sky, those fluctuations tend to be huge. Like Mogwai, the Austin, Texas-based band excels at sudden dynamic changes. The quiet-loud, verse-chorus of most alterna-rock gets stretched infinitely. To view all of All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone (the band’s third proper full-length for Temporary Residence) as one large cycle doesn’t even do justice to its expansiveness; every song contains multitudes. Album centerpiece “It’s Natural to Be Afraid” is like two of the band’s other multi-taskers fit into one track.
It’s no wonder the band has been tapped for soundtrack work. Opener “The Birth and Death of the Day,” with its walloping huge chord cadences, is absolutely heroic. Fitting for earlier Friday Night Lights accompaniment, it’s easy to visualize a running back smashing into a defender and breaking it big as this song’s playing in the background. The rattling piano lines that weave in and out of “What Do You Go Home To?” call to mind the haunting music from Eyes Wide Shut. And closer “So Long, Lonesome,” the most straightforward composition on the album with its repeated descending piano motif, is a beautiful sunset of a song.
All four band members are technically impressive, but if there’s an MVP it’s drummer Christopher Hrasky. When the guitar pyrotechnics simmer down, Hrasky is left front and center to add some interesting stick work, and he does so consistently, especially on “Birth and Death.” And when its time to ramp the sound up again, Hrasky can brutally bring it; his big two-fisted attacks on “Welcome, Ghosts” are awe-inspiring.
Explosions in the Sky has fans throughout the world, but in Europe especially. That French and German love for the band makes sense. If anything, the type of searing instrumental rock Explosions in the Sky has helped put on the map is the modern-day heir of the aural expressionism of Debussy and Wagner.
“Welcome, Ghosts” MP3