Posted by: William | March 12, 2008

Music of the Week: Explosions in the Sky

This week Explosions in the Sky’s The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place takes the prize. Now, I have to preface all this—I haven’t actually been listening to Explosions in the Sky all that much this week. In fact, I haven’t really been listening to anything in particular. I’ve just had my top 250 play list going, skipping songs as I see fit. However, in some sense, Explosions in the Sky is kind of always playing in my head.

A couple weeks ago, I talked about having been convicted about having a lot of music from before I was a Christian that I didn’t actually own. I went through and deleted a great deal of music. Much of the music I was deleting would be sorely missed. Among the deleted was Explosions’ excellent melodic instrumental collective The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place. When I resolved to delete the stolen music, I didn’t expect that I would be deleting so much beloved music, but this week as I was scrolling through my ipod searching for Explosions’ to inspire my writing and thinking I found that it had suffered deletion; in a frenzied panic, I got online to purchase the missed tunes.

When I was first introduced to this band four or five years ago I didn’t give them too much credit. I had listened to a few of their albums on shuffle and as far as I was concerned it all kind of sounded the same to me. Long twanging melodies on a clean electric guitar usually on the backdrop of lightly building percussion and on occasions some kind of strings ensemble. At the time, I was more enamored with other melodic instrumental groups such as Godspeed You Black Emperor or the closely related Silver Mt. Zion; both projects spreading their sound out over a diverse range of sounds. In contrast, Explosions sounded relatively narrow and so held little appeal to me.

This past year, I’ve been able to listen to Explosions with fresh ears, so to speak. This is likely due in part to their becoming more popular and so hearing them in more pop-culture contexts (i.e., Primetime TV or a host of pseudo-independent film). Regardless of how or why their getting my attention now, they are and I’m pleased.

None of Explosions’ songs from The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place sport any kind of vocals. Their almost entirely “thinking music” as I’d like to call it. Or, given the circumstances, they’ll make pretty much any conversation seem dramatic (try reading a Doctor Seuss book out loud overtop of the album’s closing track Your Hand in Mine. I think you’ll get my point).

Something that I find interesting about Explosions’ music is its strange ability to amplify whatever emotion already exists. At least, I’ve found this to be mostly true for myself. Most other music in the vein of Explosions has a tendency to cultivate an emotion that wasn’t previously there. This hasn’t seemed to be the case for Explosions. For me this has made the music useful for writing and thinking since it helps me to more easily connect with what I’m already feeling and thinking.

As far as artistry goes, I’m not really qualified to judge. They have an excellent sound and it seems that they do what they do skillfully and uniquely.  However, words are really something I have a bit more expertise in (eh, maybe that’s an overstatement), and without them, I find myself at something of a loss to make critiques. In any case, I highly recommend Explosions in the Sky’s The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place both as a tool for thought and creativity, but also as entertainment and inspiration.



  1. “in a frenzied panic, I got online to purchase the missed tunes”

    …still sounds like the iPod/music is a problem to me.

    Out of curiosity – how much does the music cost when you download it online? Isn’t it like $1 song? So, if you had 15,000 legal songs on your iPod that would be $15,000?

    I don’t think I’ve spent that much on LPs, 45s, 8-tracks, cassettes, and CDs – combined – in my life. I wish I had a way to play my 8-tracks still…

  2. Hello music friend:

    I googled “the earth is not a cold dead place” to see if anyone else had fallen in love with this music, slowly and almost against one’s will. Glad to know I’m not alone. There are about 5 CDs I listen to over and over again when I am doing creative work — this is one, and perhaps my favorite. I write and am a visual artist. TEINACDP works for both, and the builds / crescenzos (sp?) seem to focus my work to a joyful moment every time I hear them.

    Other CD’s you might enjoy for ambient/creative inspiration (all instrumental or foreign lyrics, english lyrics distract me when I’m working, especially when I’m writing):

    Brian Eno / Harold Budd — Plateau of Mirrors
    (piano & synthesized sounds, dreamier, ambient, not rock — good for contemplation) — Eno and Budd each have other, similar releases, but this is my favorite, and I play it nearly as much as TEINACDP.

    Tangerine Dream – Tanagram (no vocals, so it’s my favorite TD for creative)

    Tiesto – any of his “In Search of Sunrise” CD’s, he has about a dozen. Yeah, it’s trance, and there are occasional lyrics, but they can be tuned out. These are the mellower of his mixes. The beat keeps my heart pumping without going into overdrive.

    Mike Olfield – Tubular Bells – an oldie but goodie. The last track, where he announces each instrument as it joins the mix, is a little distracting, but it makes me smile.

    Gipsy Kings – a very different vibe, but these guys get me moving when coffee alone won’t. It”s all good. “Best of” truly is, if you can only buy one, and tho it is vocal, the lyrics aren’t in English and don’t distract me from the beat and melody.

    That’s what’s in heavy rotation in my studio. Honorable mention to “Those Who Tell The Truth Will Live Forever” by EITS, but I can’t listen to it over and over like the above (too much grunge buzz).

    Haven’t read the rest of your blog, but I gather you are newly – realized Christian. So am I BTW, and I believe whatever you find is a joyful noise unto the Lord, IS. Just don’t steal it.

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