February 20, 2007


What's That in The Sky? (MARK RICHARDSON, February 20, 2007, NY Sun)

[E]xplosions in the Sky's music hinges on overlapping guitars -- sometimes three at once -- that build from lyrical miniatures to epic, wall-of-sound crescendos. The band is the foremost American practitioner of the style. Toronto's Godspeed You Black Emperor! pioneered the sound, which has roots in the postrock movement of the 1990s. Scotland's Mogwai and Japan's Mono are prominent in the same vein.

"All of a Sudden, I Miss Everyone" is Explosions in the Sky's fourth full-length album. As one moves through the band's discography, it's easy to understand the most common criticism: Forall the prettiness and ear-frying volume, the songs are ultimately too alike. There are, perhaps, only so manyways one can move from quiet, tinkling strums to ripping power chords. It's a conundrum every band working in this style must confront eventually.

Explosions in the Sky addresses these concerns by incorporating textures on loan from the soundtrack world. "Your Hand in Mine (with Strings)" from "Friday Night Lights" took one of the band's earlier compositions and sweetened it with strings; similar orchestral turns pop up again here, albeit in a more abrasive form. There's also more piano.

The block piano chords that mark the changes on the tense, brooding "It's Natural To Be Afraid" are accompanied by a trembling cello, which serves as a delicate counterpoint to the feedback consuming the track during its final section. The tumbling cluster of piano that opens "What Do You Go Home To?" is at first edgy and uncertain, but partway through, the notes congeal into a shimmering mathematical pattern redolent of Philip Glass.

There's a greater sense of patience to these tracks than Explosions in the Sky has displayed before. The huge crash that seems imminent throughout "What Do You Go Home To?," for example, never arrives. Where the music on this album usually seems to be moving either up or down (usually up), on this album development is more likely to hinge on melody.

Indeed, melody emerges as the band's secret weapon when it stays truest to its established style. What most differentiates Explosions in the Sky from Mono or Mogwai is the strength of its songwriting. The tunes are hummable to say the least, provided you don't mind humming so loudly your teeth begin to ache.

Such bands are by their nature very hit or miss and the best of them is certainly Sigur Ros:

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 20, 2007 12:00 AM

I am going to see the Apples in Stereo on Saturday with my 12 year old son. I sure hope the predicted snowstorm doesn't keep the Apples away.

Their new record is growing on me, once I get past the ELO-like vocorder tracks.

Posted by: ted welter at February 20, 2007 11:21 PM