Explosions in the Sky

The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place

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Explosions in the Sky's second effort takes a more studied, even lush approach to the literate chaos of their 2001 debut. But put on your sad sack thinking cap now, because Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place is a contemplative and heady rush of masterful melancholia. Its six songs are multi-minute, slow motion workouts of gentle electric guitar plucks and subtle/sudden washes of percussion -- they're still instrumental, but as lyrical as anything in the indie rock universe. "Only Moment We Were Alone" turns on a simple, melancholy guitar figure, the drums shifting from insistent catch-up mode to a studied march built to introduce the next layered crescendo. Explosions in the Sky doesn't shift as suddenly or jarringly on Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place; the quartet has applied more structural predictability this time out, but is still quick about setting the sad butterflies in your stomach to fluttering. "Memorial" is the album's meditative heart. It begins so quietly, reduced to brittle landscapes of tone. Lightly chiming guitars drift in, like the echoes of church bells off in narrow city streets. Then, like each of the album's movements, it surges forward in a rush, like the overtures of Sonic Youth separated, dried, and ultimately lengthened in the blistering Texas sun. The final blast of distortion and staccato drumming is Earth at full bittersweet bluster. "Your Hand in Mine" ends things as they began, with a pair of determined guitars picking out a melody that's both pretty and pretty damn heartbreaking.

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