The dancer gracefully glides across the stage, with a slow but determined gait radiant with purpose. The movement is not her own, but neither is it forced. The sound uncoils itself as a rope and instructs the dancer forward, synchronizing her movement with the delicate pressure of the pianist’s fingers. There is no consciousness, no concept of time. The moment is forever captured in the combination of auditory and visual perception. Without a single spoken word, an emotion is tearing at the seams of the casual observer.
Converting the sounds of music into words is a difficult task. It is more difficult task when the sounds of the music lack lyrics. It is possible, but a difficult task even for the most skilled linguist. Yet the embedded meaning, value, and transmission of emotion present in the music speaks a thousand words in the human heart. What makes this so difficult to describe? I am still searching for an answer to this question, but Explosions in the Sky makes it easier for me by providing All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone, their fourth album. Originally released in 2007, the Texas-based band shares an irreplaceable part of human psyche and emotional strength through their six-track escapade. More solemn than my previous musical tribute, I take my own interpretation of this timeless album.
Explosions in the Sky (further referred to as EITS) leaves the listener with the album artwork to shape the mood and direction of the album. The artwork features a man peering over a boat amidst what appears to be a flooded city. His lantern dimly lights a reflection in the water. Fallen electricity poles and flooded buildings scatter the horizon. A mix of other artwork is accompanied in the full album artwork with the vinyl edition. Surrounding the image of the man in the boat are various other images, circling around the center like memories. One is of a ghostly-colored woman playing a piano, another of two children watching television late at night. Another is a dog with a flashlight running towards a person, one final basketball match lit by the sunset, and a man celebrating alone with a cake.
These images seem irrelevant to each other, but all of them connect back to the main image in the center: the primary cover of All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone. Each of the six additional images accompanies one of the six tracks on the album. The man is searching for these lost memories in the sea of regret and desire. The tides have risen far beyond normal and now he is the only survivor. Even though he does not drown in the waves of “have-nots” and wistful wishing, he is lost. Like a mountaineer without a compass, the protagonist of this album is seeking to rid himself of the loneliness that he finds himself immersed in.
The adventurous story of escape and breaking free of the sea is the plot buried within this album.
If the album title and artwork serves as the front cover of the book, the track titles serve as the table of contents for the listener. Each track of All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone represents an important milestone on the adventure to escape the sea of regret and tides of loneliness. Some tracks are defeated submission while others are bittersweet victories. Each track itself could be put into a powerful, hundred-page story. I have summarized my interpretation of each track below as briefly as possible. The purpose of this is to serve as pointers for interpretation, not definitive and irrefutable interpretations. That is a unique experience that you, the listener, must determine on your own.
- The Birth and Death of the Day: Representative of the intangibility of time; the day begins and ends within a momentary flash. The time you wished to have spent doing things that matter to you is lost in the fading light of dusk. It rises again at dawn, only to start an endless cycle of hope followed by crushing disappointment.
- Welcome, Ghosts: The ghosts are the ghosts of memories past. This track deals with losing your present mind in the past. Memories of smiles, happy moments, albums of pictures… all of these things are the ghosts that haunt us in the present. In the times where the present is too much to bear, we welcome the ghosts of past to haunt us as a way to numb the present.
- It’s Natural to Be Afraid: Longest track on the album. The track begins with a fearful self-monologue about the current condition of the self. Whether it’s overcoming an addiction, leaving behind a painful memory, or winning the fight over your own internal chemical balance, the fear is overwhelming and daunting. As the song progresses, it gives way to a glimmer of hope… a way out of the vicious cycle that traps you with your own ghosts. When the hope becomes more clear and defined, it becomes the only thing that matters to you. You cling and grasp onto it, fighting and hoping this solution is the answer you are looking for. You have no way to be certain if this is the answer, but that only drives your fear forward. It is expected… natural. The music abruptly changes as you find it isn’t what you expected. Your fear gives way to embarrassed defeat as you pick up the shards of your attempt to recover to a normal state. The defeat slowly gives way to neglect, and neglect gives way to habit. Despite the momentary glimmer of something better, you are no farther ahead or behind than from the start.
- What Do You Come Home To?: Reflective of the deepest state of loneliness and depression. This home is a place of solitude and prison. Trapped in a cycle of despair and immobility, the daily retreat and commute from daily obligations to the home is a voluntary prison sentence. Alone you sit each night, faced with the same thoughts and the same ghosts. In the end, you realize that the only escape out of this cycle is a complete and drastic change before it becomes irreversible.
- Catastrophe and the Cure: The time for change is now. The critical point of the album surges in a powerful burst of energy and desperation in this eight minute ballad. Life was not meant to feel like a daily disaster, you were not meant to feel powerless of the actions in your own life! The ghosts must be shaken away. Value isn’t given, it is taken. It is taken by you, the interpreter. There is value you must take in your own existence. The cure to the catastrophe of you is a change of mind and a change of heart. To find the worth in life, you have to fight for it and make it worthy. You are in charge of your own cure. Don’t remain passive… be active. Don’t wait for a solution… be a part of it.
- So Long, Lonesome: Like a dream, you emerge. Ghosts are no longer of the past. The people and smiles are here now. They always were. The tides of your tears, waves of wallowing, sea of sadness… all drain away. Back into the ocean, back into the sea. You emerge. You hold a great power of knowledge: of your cure. You are entrusted to share it and make this message grow in volume and in power. So long, to your lonesome self… you were never alone to begin with.
The moral to this album is broad and widely open to personal perspective. But the moral that stands out to me seems clear.
It’s easy to become a victim of a system that feeds off of desire and material value. Desire leads to suffering from a longing to always have more. In the daylight hours, you always wish to do more, to have more. Everywhere around you, material wealth defines the value in the world. It shapes perspectives, it gives or lessens power. Trying to be above this is staying afloat amidst a flood. It’s unavoidable because it’s everywhere.
You have to build a boat to get a clear picture of everything. It’s hard to see around you when you’re submerged in the water. From this new perspective, you are able to see what matters most to you. Desire should be staved off. You have to give value to the things, to the people, that matter to you. Take all of this to heart and don’t let the indecisive nature of desire control your heart and your mind.
It may feel like your problems cannot be traversed. They are too much for a single person to bear. But you are never alone. When you least expect it, there is someone who cares more than you ever realized. There are resources available you had not seen before. There is always a way to getting better. Even in the darkest moments, there is a path to light.
Get “All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone“
The album is available in countless places. I hope my analysis has compelled you to at least listen to the beautiful sounds within the album, or possibly even have convinced you to support the work of Explosions in the Sky. They deserve every dime.
You can find this album at any of the following sources… happy listening.