There’s a part of me that will always associate Explosions in the Sky with a sort of bittersweet melancholy. Their sound and overall aesthetic are certainly an element, but I believe it has more to do with the memories I’ve internalized and associated with their music over the years: hazy mornings in the warm embrace of another, matted hair and bare skin tangled under bedsheets, bitter winter nights cloaked in gloom, the thrill of new love, the desolation of the breakup.
It’s been twelve years since I was first introduced to The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place as a fresh-faced, impressionable teenager. I still remember the first listen, or more accurately how it made me feel: young, wild, and free, full of hope yet vulnerable. Precarious. Such remarkable depth in songs of relatively low complexity. Titles like Your Hand In Mine and The Only Moment We Were Alone resonated with an intensity unlike anything I’d experienced until that point; a perfectly timed soundtrack for a tumultuous period.
It’s been close to half a lifetime since, and yet the sounds and memories feel fresh as ever. Beauty and agony, joy and grief, rising and falling like the swell of a chorus. Diametrically opposed yet inseparable. It takes a rare kind of artist to capture the contradictions inherent to the human condition with such raw emotion and simplicity. Like a mirror, the music of Explosions in the Sky reflects back on the listener with clarity and intent. Twelve years ago I saw and felt the polarizing lemniscate of young love; five nights ago at The Paramount, as I watched the band perform new material for the first time in as many years, I felt at peace yet not without a sense of longing. I’m older now, in many ways an altogether different person. The grooves of experience etched on my face may be a constant reminder of what I’ve left behind, but the wax and wane of Explosions in the Sky remind me that loss and gain are but two sides of the same coin.
Photos and words by Carlos J. Matos.