12 O'Clock Track: Explosions in the Sky, "The Birth and Death of the Day"



What's the best (sub)genre of music to soundtrack a treacherous, tense drive across an ice-ridden web of midwestern highway? A friend and I asked ourselves this very question last Wednesday as we cautiously trekked through a blustery Indiana on our way back from Cincinnati to our respective cities of Chicago and Madison, Wisconsin. The "Crossroads of America" was anything but that—most of the central part of the state, which had been hit with a medium-size blizzard overnight, was sheeted in ice and well-packed snow, encouraging the day's more daring (and idiotic) drivers to take unwanted detours into medians and snow drifts. For the most part, I-74 was a damn nightmare, and I-65 was barely tolerable.

We started the drive with Kate Bush, but immediately changed because the theatricality of her idiosyncratic, baroque vocal style is better suited for a setting from Alice in Wonderland than a gray, slushy nowheresville. Swans came next, but Michael Gira's flat baritone voice—though appropriately ominous—nearly hypnotized me into grabbing the wheel and sending us careening off the road toward a timely demise. He's just got that kind of sway. After that came various punk bands (Whatever Brains, Video, et cetera), who were each too abrasive and snarly for a drive that desperately needed some calmness. In the end, we settled on the instrumental postrock of Austin four-piece Explosions in the Sky.

Former Reader contributor Jessica Hopper once wrote that Explosions' "grandiose and complicated take on the old loud-quiet-loud formula—sort of a quiet-quiet-quiet-pretty-quieter-quietest-hint-of-loudness-drum-fill-speeding-up-louder-rumble-rumble-fake-out-rumble-louder-louder-suddenly-quiet-again-(psych!)-superloud-crashing-arc-of-guitar-thunder formula—is what’s earned them their audience." That formula, which often includes the band's patented rolling snare fills, is sufficiently soothing and uplifting (and opiate) that skidding off the side of the road into an ice boulder seems like an acceptable fate. If it has to happen, that is.

Today's 12 O'Clock Track is "The Birth and Death of the Day," the opener from Explosion in the Sky's 2007 album, All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone.

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