Dusted Reviews

Explosions In The Sky - All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Explosions In The Sky

Album: All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone

Label: Temporary Residence

Review date: Mar. 6, 2007

Explosions in the Sky have blown up quietly. There wasn't much buzz behind them when they released their last proper album, The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place, in 2003, and their work since then – the lion's share of the soundtrack for Friday Night Lights and an EP for Temporary Residence's subscription-only Travels In Constants series – has been treated less as a next-big-thing than as a best-kept-secret. Their stock has risen consistently, but that's the odd thing: their eminent stature in the post-rock genre, their importance to it, owes as much to like-minded acts who have invoked the Austin quartet as a point of comparison as it does to their own inspired but ungenerous catalogue.

This staplehood has made Explosions into something greater than the sum of their records, an archetype of the kind of vivid, visceral instrumental music they haven't actually practiced for some time. Lionizing them based on the disparate strengths of the idyllic Earth and its doom-laden predecessor Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Live Forever misses the full picture; Explosions are focused on evolving to a greater degree than most of their contemporaries, and moved away from volume and lengthiness with each subsequent venture. To argue that the results were less memorable and less rewarding is valid, probably right, but it's been unusually difficult to separate the band they've become from the one the industry perpetuates in the R.I.Y.L. column. Trying to evaluate, say, The Rescue (their Travels In Constants EP) without prescriptive expectations raises the question of whether they're still the same band at all.

And All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone answers it in its first breathless minutes. "The Birth and Death of the Day," the best song on the album and, in terms of sustained excitement, of their career, is at once familiar and stunning. It builds from the intersection of meticulous guitar themes, traverses distinct but related mini-movements, pivots dramatically between quiet and loud and louder, marches to a truly rousing climax and, better still, lets it ride for a satisfying interval. It sounds inexorable, an advancing storm or an advancing army. The fluttering parts are more economical than on Earth, the thunderous ones more nuanced than on Truth, and both play out with a previously unheard synthesis. It's refined but surprising, neither too clean nor too sludgy, too bright or dark. This, it suggests with the giddy finality of great post-rock, is who Explosions in the Sky are.

Which is a shortsighted conclusion, of course, even if the rest of the record were to follow suit. "The Birth and Death of the Day" is the articulation of all those unfair expectations, that ideal EITS song, but as a whole All of a Sudden is knottier than that. (Still, one imagines that the sequencing was deliberate, as though to placate the naysayers and reactionaries first, then get on with the actual agenda.) This is a record invested in expansion, less concerned with writing centralized or linear songs than with tweaking format, dynamic, atmosphere (for which John Congleton's hyper-realized production is a very good thing). It's not far off from the intersection of Earth and Truth, but it's not a question of retreading or perfecting either one; rather, it calls on their respective successes as colors in a wider palette, footholds for exploration.

There are, for example, the brief (by EITS standards) piano songs. "So Long, Lonesome," the opposite bookend to "Birth and Death," starts out like a twinkling Múm piece and builds gravity until a drum vamp comes in in the last minute; the lovely "What Do You Go Home To?" borrows the shimmering drones of labelmate Eluvium, with no percussion at all save an inarticulate rumble at the end. These are departures in medium and in message, yet their small Explosions signatures – the desolate feedback whine in the background, the ridiculous reverb presence of the drums – remain unmistakable, in sharper relief than the group's previous exercises allowed for.

To be fair The Rescue was a bellwether for this sort of sophistication, but taken on its own it was almost cause for despair: it had no ferocity, none of the scorched-earth passion of early showstoppers like Truth opener "Greet Death." The payoff of All of a Sudden is that it does, amply. "Welcome, Ghosts" would be an unusually lean Earth b-side if not for its unexpected sense of violence; sleeper highlight "Catastrophe and the Cure" stretches its few hooks thin but keeps them afloat with mannered insistence. The same insistence reads as wheel-spinning in the largely listless centerpiece "It's Natural To Be Afraid," but this feels forgivable as the occasional demon of so much resolute refinement. Explosions spend less time than ever treading the line between tension and long-windedness (the Godspeed line, if you like), and the focus suits them beautifully.

Explosions in the Sky aren't returning to form here, they're coming into their own. This seems funny to say on the occasion of a band's fourth album, but All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone shows a youthful energy they couldn't have pulled off when they were younger – to wit, it has virtually nothing in common with their eloquent but raw debut, How Strange, Innocence. The balance earns them that spot in the canon they've been involuntarily occupying for years. For a band whose promise has often outdone their execution, All of a Sudden is their most complex, accomplished and well thought out record; more importantly, it's just theirs.

By Daniel Levin Becker

Other Reviews of Explosions In The Sky

The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place

Take Care, Take Care, Take Care

Read More

View all articles by Daniel Levin Becker

Find out more about Temporary Residence

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.