Tuesday, March 6, 2007

First Blush: Explosions in the Sky - All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone

As mentioned earlier, Circuit City screwed me by not having this one in stock. So consequently, we’re nearly two weeks late on First Blush. This is the Explosions’ third or fourth album, depending on how you look at things. Their previous efforts have been superb instrumental, avant-garde rawk. I expect more of the same, but now that they have more attention, we’ll see if they either try to perfect their previous sound or mix it up. Either way, we know that I will not be able to quote any lyrics because there won’t be any. So this may be an exercise in futility. Here we go!

Track 1 – The Birth and Death of the Day
0:01 A low howl goes into super-distorted strumming with echo.
0:28 Now that’s an explosion – boom! They are building this intro and I’m ready to be thrilled.
1:47 It all fades out to some finger-picking with a kick drum and now some slow-building guitar progression. Oh, and a little tambourine for good measure. Davey Jones would be happy. Things keep building…
3:42 Now we’re down to just two guitars before launching into thumps from the guitar and drums.
4:36 Really rolling now. I’m totally digging this song. It’s somehow more musical than what they’ve done before. I realize that doesn’t make sense. Maybe this is how Explosions in the Sky does a pop song.
5:59 Everything is feeling triumphant!
7:39 All is quiet now, and I have to say that I’m quite pleased with how the album has begun.

Track 2 – Welcome, Ghosts
0:14 There was no break between songs, we just turned right into it.
0:25 Christopher Hrasky (drums) is carrying the track in the early going.
1:33 The drums here are literally thudding on the off beat – like they stuffed them with plush children’s toys or something.
2:45 All is quiet – this is the smallest part of the album thus far.
3:07 I don’t know how they get their guitars to sound the way they do, but right now it sounds exactly like a piano. Often times, they sound like bells or wind chimes. It’s amazing.
4:58 Thick finish to this one, pounding drums, cymbals and tons of distortion on the guitar. It will be fantastic live methinks.

Track 3 – It’s Natural to be Afraid
0:10 It begins somewhat reminiscent of Money For Nothin’.
0:34 That doesn’t last long, though as things start to get very dark. I just realized this track is over thirteen minutes long.
2:04 Nothing new to report. Still loading more sound as we go, but it’s a slow build.
2:31 There are scant few liner notes in this album, but the artwork is superb. You see the cover above. Clearly there has been a tremendous flood and we only see one person standing at the bow of a small boat, looking across the water’s surface while holding a lamp. They’re looking for someone, most likely anyone. The only companion they have is a bird, caged at the stern. Off in the distance, we can see what might be the light of someone else. Or perhaps might be the sun setting, or maybe just a streetlamp that somehow still has electricity. However, when we open the booklet inside, we see the same picture, but it is surrounded by other images – most likely memories from this fellow, wistfully going over the major and minor points of his life before everything changed. He plays basketball, watches TV with his brother, celebrates a birthday alone, and shares romance at the deep end of a swimming pool. However, if we flip that picture over, we see a scene that must be ten minutes after the previous one. The other light has proven to be a boat with three people aboard. However, our protagonist is now looking directly down into the water, apparently not even noticing the other boat despite their raised hand and presumed call. Perhaps they were not the people he was hoping for, or maybe he would prefer to gaze down, preserving his memories as they are.
7:06 The song portrays more of an image of hope now, picking up the pace and volume.
7:26 Another low section here.
9:19 Now we bust out suddenly with two guitars working against one another at very high ranges – it’s not dueling banjos by any means, but the interplay is subtly brilliant.
12:03 It’s a lot of feedback and floating guitar notes as the song winds down, somehow giving a peaceful and eerie quality at the same time.

Track 4 – What do you go Home to?
0:09 Again these are guitars sounding almost exactly like a piano.
1:17 OK, I think that actually is a piano. This is new for the band if I’m not mistaken.
2:12 This track has nearly a Phillip Glass feel, but not quite so atonal. Each contribution stands on its own, as opposed to earlier when they were dancing with one another, all the elements are doing their own thing so far.
4:16 This is the mellowest track on the album – there are no unified crashes or tremendous builds.
4:47 We end with a single low piano note struck with the left hand.

Track 5 – Catastrophe and the Cure
0:20 Already cooking at this point, clearly ready to bounce things back up
0:43 Drums are driving this one right now, although the whole band is playing “busy.”
1:46 Someone in this band is going to get tendonitis for sure.
2:21 The calm before another impending storm, I can only assume.
3:04 Echoey drums lead to…
3:17 Not a storm, but a progression into a sparse but quick echoed section. Teasers!
5:47 More sound now, but it’s not violent by any means. Tons of snare drum here.

Track 6 – So long, Lonesome
0:00 Again, no break between songs here as the finger picking from the end of the last song goes right into this one.
0:56 The piano is featured.
1:21 There are no drums, but all instruments are circling around one another, with the piano leading everything, picked and strummed guitars mixing in and then guitars way up in the background almost singing notes.
2:47 The drums kick in and the song finishes slowly, but powerfully and perhaps peacefully.

I can’t wait to listen to this thing again. They have gone for more of a themed release than in the past – as opposed to a collection of songs – and it is to their credit. If you love music, and I know you do, I highly recommend checking this out. Of course, Explosions in the Sky always gets better after multiple listens, but so far, I’m quite fond of the album. If you act fast and buy it from them directly, you can get a limited edition bonus CD with each of the songs remixed by various people.

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