Music takes a peripheral role in most people’s lives. It’s why most people listen to whatever they liked in high school; a time where obligations and responsibilities are few, and hours can be spent daily listening to new records. Explosions In The Sky were a cornerstone for me then. They were “serious music,” and could always be counted on for exhilarating moments and bombast in stark contrast to a lot of the emo and post-punk I was listening to at the time.
There’s never been anything “simple” about Explosions In The Sky’s music; I’ve seen reviewers describe their work as “modern composition,” but that doesn’t mean they aren’t immune to complacency and formula. In fact, “formula” is what has defined the band since 2003’s The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place. That record came out in my junior year of high school, and, like the townies who kick back Bud Lites at the local pub every Friday night, very little has changed for them since then.
EITS’ work following that landmark record has been very solid, but it’s been hard to get excited about any of it because it has a same-y quality to it. There’s something to be said for that. Sometimes you’re just in the mood for EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY and tossing on any of their records will do the job. Those Who Tell The Truth… and Take Care, Take Care both take me back to that time and place, even though a whole decade passed in between their respective release dates. But for a band so capable of beauty, it’s been a bit frustrating to see them punching at the same weight for so long.
That all changes on “The Wilderness.” Or rather, it doesn’t change all that much, but sometimes a “new hat” is all you need (plus a strings section.) It’s still an Explosions In The Sky record, but it’s the minimalists take on their sound. They don’t, for lack of a better word, “explode” so much. The songs build subtly and maintain a sense of melancholy throughout. They don’t erupt into crescendo so much as deploy a controlled release. These songs may not make for as dynamic performance pieces as the old stuff (I’ll find out at the Kings Theater in September), but a little restraint has given us the best EITS record in 13 years.
If you’re like me, you might have just skipped over this one expecting more of the same, but do yourself a favor and give this one a spin.