I Celebrate Their Entire Collection: Explosions in the Sky
[Welcome to the first installment of “I Celebrate Their Entire Collection,” Stew Over’s feature on the bands we love.]
I was first introduced to Explosions in the Sky through the television show Friday Night Lights. Well, technically, I first read about the band in a Bill Simmons ESPN “Mailbag” exchange. A reader noted that EitS, who wrote the soundtrack for FNL, “can make any normal experience epic,” and termed this the “Explosions Effect.” I decided to find out if EitS truly made the mundane feel epic.
Almost four years later, after purchasing all their CDs and seeing them in concert, I can report that EitS’s music does have a unique effect on me. The “Explosions Effect” is real for me: no matter what I’m doing, it feels more important if I’m listening to EitS. It’s as if the music is providing a score for my life, making my life somewhere between ten and a million times more important than it really is.
If you’ve heard of the band, it is most likely through either the film Friday Night Lights or the outrageously underrated television show of the same name. EitS wrote the entire soundtrack for the movie, and their songs were heard frequently in the television show. The band also played at a couple of Lollapaloozas, so even if you missed Friday Night Lights, you may have heard of them.
If you’ve never heard EitS before, I urge you to do so and go in with an open mind. I encourage new listeners to dedicate an hour when they have some time to just listen to a whole album either quietly at home or during a long drive. Their music is not intended to be experienced like most music these days, in 3- to 5-minute bursts, but as an entire album worth of tracks. The songs often don’t have clear starts and endings and each song tends to build on what came before it. When I describe their musical style, people tend to be turned off, and in fact when I first heard their music described, I couldn’t see myself enjoying it. EitS plays what is called post-rock, a style that is most notable for not having any vocals. Again, the best way I can describe it is as if you’re listening to your own movie score. Without words, the song title is the only way to discern meaning from the song, and that is one of the coolest things about the music in my opinion. You can build your own image in your head of what the song is about.
I attended an EitS concert in Chicago a couple of years back. The show was quite amazing, but a warning to anyone who goes to see them in concert: This type of band attracts mainly a hipster crowd. As I waited outside the venue, I was subjected to multiple conversations regarding the lack of places to park a bike in the Chicagoland area. Believe me, I sympathize with any argument against hipsters, but don’t let that keep you away. You’ll do yourself a disservice if you don’t give EitS a try.
What follows is a rundown of their albums in chronological order, with a short review and my favorite track from each. Choosing a favorite track can be hard, though, because as I noted, EitS’s songs often flow together throughout the album.
How Strange, Innocence- January 17, 2000
Favorite Track: “Remember Me As a Time of Day”
Explosions in the Sky’s first album includes one of my all-time favorite songs, “Remember Me As a Time of Day.” It is one of the saddest songs I know, yet because it has no lyrics, the song is not explicitly sad. I suppose the title makes me think of places I’ve left or people I’ve lost. Still, it’s perfectly conceivable that someone else would hear the song and have a completely different interpretation.
Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever- September 4, 2001
Favorite Track: “Greet Death”
EitS’s most critically acclaimed album was the second album I discovered. The track “Have You Passed Through This Night?” includes a clip from The Thin Red Line, which is quite powerful, especially when juxtaposed with what happened just one week after the album’s release. Obviously, when they created the album, Explosions had no idea about what what going to happen on September 11th; however, no doubt most people who listened to the album upon release were thinking of little else. This is one of my favorite things about their music: you can interpret it how you please.
The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place- November 4, 2003
Favorite Track: “The Only Moment We Were Alone”
This album, more than any other, tends to inspire hope in me when I hear it. The title, “The Earth is NOT a Cold Dead Place,” has a lot to do with it. The album is a little intimidating, in that every track is at least eight minutes long. I specifically played “The Only Moment We Were Alone” when I was on a boat on Lake Michigan watching the final year of Chicago’s July 3rd fireworks. This was one of the happiest moments of my life, and I’ll always be grateful that this song reminds me of it. This is also the song EitS most often ends their live show with, so I can imagine that other fans enjoy it as much as I do.
Friday Night Lights: Official Soundtrack
Favorite Track: “Inside It All Feels the Same”
This is the album I recommend for any first-time listener; it is also the band’s best-known work. “Your Hand in Mine” was used often in both the movie and television show Friday Night Lights. The series finale of the television show used “Inside It All Feels the Same” and “To West Texas” during two emotional moments in the show. I tend to prefer EitS’s longer songs, and the album doesn’t flow together like most of their other works, so this album isn’t one of my favorites; however, “Inside It All Feels the Same” is so good that I listen to that song quite a bit.
The Rescue- October 11, 2005
Favorite Track: “Day Three”
The Rescue features eight tracks that were recorded in just two weeks. Each track has a different feel, unlike the band’s other albums. I didn’t much care for the album on first hearing, but after multiple listens I’ve started to really appreciate it for how different it is. In “Day Three,” you hear the band faintly recalling a story of when their bus broke down and they didn’t have any money to fix it. They talk about a desire to be able to go home and sleep in their own bed. I often listen to EitS either on a plane or when lying down in a hotel bed, and that desire to be home is one I relate to.
All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone- February 20, 2007
Favorite Track: “The Birth and Death of the Day”
This is the album EitS was promoting when they played the concert I attended. It’s one of my favorites, and it starts with one of my favorite songs, “The Birth and Death of the Day.” The entire song feels like a giant exhale. I picture myself jumping off a cliff and flying when I listen to it. It’s one of my favorite songs to listen to when I’m on an airplane.
Take Care, Take Care, Take Care- April 18, 2011
Favorite Track: “Postcard from 1952”
A nice late birthday gift to myself, the latest EitS album continues the tradition of their earlier work. I use “Postcard from 1952” often when running to pump me up when I need an added boost. I often listen to EitS’s music while running on a treadmill, as it helps transport me to a place that makes me forget I’m running in place for 45 minutes.
Here ends the first installment of “I Celebrate Their Entire Collection.” Do you listen to Explosions in the Sky? What are some of your favorite albums or songs? If you’ve never heard of Explosions, I hope I’ve inspired you to at least give them a shot. Their entire collection of songs (except for The Rescue) is available on Spotify. All of their music is on iTunes.