Posts Tagged ‘Post-Rock’

h1

Explosions in the Sky – All of a Sudden, I Miss Everyone

Thursday, April 1, 2010

All of a Sudden, I Miss Everyone (2007)

Three years ago, on April 1, I waited in line to see Explosions in the Sky play in Norman, Oklahoma. Anticipation was high. I was a freshman, and the whole world was before me. Finally, after all this time, I would at last see one of my favorite bands live.

Yet disaster struck, because they sold out. I was told by a friend they would have plenty of tickets, so I didn’t go Ticketmaster. I guess you could say I was fooled on this worst of days. April truly is the cruelest month…

Anyway, I couldn’t decide what album to review, so I decided on this. Today, I’m not as into Explosions in the Sky as I once was. Which might seem kind of weird, because the album art is my profile picture thing. I really like the album art for this one.

But for a while there, I listened to Explosions way too much. All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone I would often listen to while falling asleep. The music is peaceful and transcendent, the kind of stuff one would expect to hear in the post-rock genre. But while it is nice to listen to, and is very pretty, it really doesn’t try anything new. It’s musically similar to their previous album, The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place.

But other than that, All of a Sudden… is solid, depending on the mood I’m in. Sometimes, I find Explosions in the Sky hopelessly boring. But other times, when the mood strikes, I’ll put them on and it’s very relaxing and helps me concentrate on working – whether it’s homework, writing, whatever. They’re great background music, and when they’re at their best, can be very emotionally moving.

The only song on the album that moves me is probably “The Birth and Death of the Day.” It begins soft, and then explodes in melody, like the sun creeping above the horizon, banishing night for another day. The post-rock genre thrives on creating mood – and nowhere else on this album does Explosions do it more successfully than on this song.

The rest of the tracks are good – but merely good. Nice to listen to, but nothing too special.

Today, I’m not the adorer of this band I once was. But still, I respect their talent, and I’ll remember the nostalgia. Their best songs are breathtaking – but more often than not on All of a Sudden, Explosions doesn’t live up to their potential.

h1

Kayo Dot – Choirs of the Eye

Monday, March 29, 2010

Choirs of the Eye (2003)

This has to be the weirdest, most confusing album I own.

And where to start?

Extremely experimental meets post-rock meets classical meets jazz meets metal. None of those things should go together. But somehow, Kayo Dot have managed to do it. Whether that leaves you with something listenable is debatable. Personally, it leaves me dumbfounded that it has been done so well.

I got Choirs of the Eye because I’m such a huge fan of maudlin of the Well. I was expecting much of the same. While there are some similarities, Kayo Dot takes it to a whole new level of experimentation and challenge.

I’ve owned this music two and a half years. To this day, I haven’t wrapped my mind around  it. The music is an explosion of every instrument imaginable, from trombone to flute to heavily distorted guitars to strings to drums. It’s violence cuts, its numbness subdues, its ethereal beauty entrances. Like other maudlin of the Well music, the lyrics are sheer poetry, when you can understand what Driver is saying. He croons like Jeff Buckley and Thom Yorke (though is not as talented as either).

But it isn’t for the singing that you listen to Kayo Dot. It’s the fact that it’s insane, not only for its extreme intensity, but also for its laid back moments where it almost grooves, lulling you into false sense of security before it blows up on you again.

Choirs of the Eye, at least for me, is a musical challenge unlike any other. What it accomplishes has likely never been done before. Sure, there is avant-garde music. Maybe there’s even avant-garde music that’s been blended with metal, jazz, and classical. But I doubt that it’s been done with as much success as Kayo Dot did with Choirs of the Eye.

Before listening to Choirs of the Eye, I never would have believed music like this could exist. For at least this one thing I can consider Kayo Dot’s Choirs of the Eye a success.

h1

Sigur Rós – ( )

Monday, March 29, 2010

( ) (2002)

If Ágætis byrjun were Spring and melting snow and rushing rivers, then ( ) would be Fall and glaciers encroaching their icy claws over an already icy land.

Sigur Rós slows down here. The music exchanges the extreme range of emotion of Ágætis byrjun for the deep melancholy of ( ). This work is sadder, and deeper. If Ágætis byrjun were joyful exuberance, then ( ) is sorrowful wisdom. If Ágætis byrjun were youth and dancing, then ( ) is regret and old age.

The music is minimalistic in comparison, and shows another side of Sigur Rós’ brilliance. The music has a cold and haunting quality, like the year’s first rush of cold wind. It numbs and freezes you with its strains of sorrow.

Like Ágætis byrjun, ( ) strikes deep into my soul. The notes eerily describe how I often feel. But unlike Ágætis byrjun, it strikes solely into feelings we do our best to avoid – like sadness and pain and distance from a world that always seems to be going the other way. There’s the feeling of a scaling a beautiful, snow-capped mountain, hoping to see a promised land beyond of eternal spring, but instead of only finding a desert of ice.

( ) might be too bleak for some people’s tastes. But it is bleakly honest. To me, it’s about searching and searching, yet coming up short. It’s always trying to find home, telling ourselves it’s beyond the next mountain range. And then the next, and then the next, and then the next…

Maybe this sounds too depressing for you. But when describing this album, it’s impossible for me to do otherwise. And I think we mature when we contemplate the hard questions and enter the house of mourning rather than the house of feasting.

This album will mean different things to different people, making it all the more difficult to describe. But one thing is for certain – if this music enters you, it will get you thinking and feeling. Whether that’s a good or bad thing, I’ll leave for you.

h1

Sigur Rós – Ágætis byrjun

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ágætis byrjun (1999)

Ágætis byrjun is among the most beautiful music I’ve heard.

It whispers, it shouts, it thunders, it flows like clear, cold water. Sorry for the metaphor binge, but I can’t describe it literally.

I might not understand the words (because they’re in Icelandic). But the best music speaks without words.

Ágætis byrjun is that rare album that ceases to be mere entertainment and achieves art. It’s spiritual, lifting your soul to the clouds, reminding you that life and the world is beautiful. Its melodies are like memories from childhood, almost forgotten. It reminds me of when I saw the world through magical eyes, where anything and everything was possible, where love came as naturally as breathing.

I have a hard time describing what this music does to me. At the risk of sounding crazy, sometimes before falling asleep, I hear the most beautiful music in my mind. I could never remember it or write this music down. I just enjoy it while it’s still there, and maybe when I go to Heaven I can write it down. I know that probably sounds stupid, but that is the closest comparison I can find. I guess angels’ song also works.

Perhaps this music speaks to you, too. Maybe you feel the same about it. Maybe you don’t. Maybe it’s just some guy (yes, it’s a guy) singing unnaturally high, orchestrating the notes in such a way to go for the cheap emotional knockout. But that’s sort of what I love about this album – the pure emotion of it.

And isn’t that what good music is supposed to do, anyway?

h1

Explosions in the Sky – The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place

Sunday, January 18, 2009
The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place (2003)

The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place (2003)

April 1, 2007. A day which will live in infamy (for me).
I was going to see Explosions in the Sky live at the University of Oklahoma (where I attend).

I was quite “stoked,” as one might say. Actually, for a while I thought it was a cruel April Fools joke. But when it was confirmed by others that Explosions in the Sky were in fact playing, I was pretty darn excited.

But I never got to go to that concert. I’m still a little sad about it – especially since EITS won’t be touring again anytime soon. They ran out of tickets – I was pretty sure they would have some leftover, but I got there too late. Lesson: always go Ticketmaster.

But on the way, I saw Munaf (a guitarist for the band) sitting with some members of the opening band on a bench outside the student union. My friend and I got a picture with him. I hoped it didn’t annoy him too much. I always get nervous around famous musicians (and people) for some reason. Not that they are exactly that famous..

Anyway, enough of my pity party. The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place was my introduction to Explosions in the Sky. It is their best release, in my opinion, but certainly there is something to love in everything they do.

For me, each song is a story.  “First Breath After Coma” is about a woman waking from a long coma, her husband sitting nearby, holding her hand. The first notes of the guitar mimic the metronome of a heart monitor beeping – the bass drum the heart beat. The beauty of the song builds up, a full celebration of a life not taken for granted in the least.

My favorite track is probably “The Only Moment When We Were Alone.” Just the emotions conveyed – the highs, the lows, the louds, the softs – is absolutely epic. Unlike the first one I don’t have a particular story to go with it.

Probably the fan favorite of EITS is “Your Hand in Mine,” which is played on Friday Night Lights. It certainly is a wonderful track, but the first two cannot be touched with their power.

A very beautiful accomplishment by one of my favorite bands.