The first Explosions in the Sky album I listened to was The Earth Is Not a Cold, Dead Place. I thought labelmates mono had a far stronger sound, but the more genteel aspects of the album ultimately won me over.
The second Explosions in the Sky album I listened to was How Strange Innocence. The band itself disclaimed the album as a product of youth, and I have to say a bigger studio budget did the quartet real justice. Not to say this auspicious debut was bad.
The third Explosions in the Sky album I listened to was Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever. Then I understood how powerful the band’s music can be.
Which brings me to the fourth Explosions in the Sky album, All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone. It doesn’t stray too far from what has gone before, but it’s hard to dismiss there’s something different this time around.
The Earth Is Not a Cold, Dead Place, unwittingly or not, had a certain classicism to it, a grandeur and complexity that could translate well into chamber music. (From post-rock to post-classical, as if a distinction between the two could be made.)
By comparison, All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone brings the band back to the brutal force of Those Who Tell the Truth …, but it still retains its predecessors’ sense of scale. Is this album perhaps the indie rock answer to a symphonic work? I can almost visualize new music pundits and indie hipsters scoffing at such an idea.
Perhaps I’m far too willing to assign All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone a greater scope than its aim because the band’s music is essentially the soundtrack for the television show Friday Night Lights. (Explosions in the Sky also scored the movie on which the show is based.)
As absolute music, the work of Explosions in the Sky is bombastic and hulking, far too serious to include as a component in the "sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll" troika. But when underscoring the drama unfolding on the small screen — and believe me, Friday Night Lights is up there with Battlestar Galactica in terms of quality television — Explosions’ music expresses more poignancy than a post-Romantic score played by a full-size orchestra.
And the show’s music directors often use the sparest moments in the band’s music.
All that to say All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone is a tightly-focused, complete work, not just a collection of the group’s six newest songs. Pianos and sampled instruments make their way into the wash of guitars this time around, wonderfully augmenting Explosions’ signature sound without distracting from it.
In addition to that expansion, Explosions in the Sky plays much harder this time out, perhaps even surpassing the intensity of its previous work. There’s a sense of architecture behind the writing but also a sense of abandon in the performances.
My only complaint is with the packaging. A remix disc is included with the first pressing of the album (I assume), and there’s nothing on the disc face to distinguish it from the album proper. I ended up listening to parts of the remix disc first, wondering why Explosions in the Sky had gone all glitchy. (Start with the disc with a lamp.)
All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone does a fine job of stretching the vast boundaries set by the band’s earlier albums, and it finds Explosions in the Sky producing something truly whole.
[Huh. That’s got to be some the wankiest writing I’ve ever done.]