It seemed like for a while there, back in the early '00s, post-rock was destined to carve itself a nice little niche in mainstream society. There was a substantial amount of press coverage, the numerous genre offshoots (instru-metal anyone?) and bands were releasing stellar albums, one after another. At the forefront of this movement, then and now, are Explosions in the Sky. From scoring an entire movie soundtrack (Friday Night Lights), to being one of the only instrumental bands to appear on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Explosions are the poster boys of a scene that almost made it big, but now appears to be looking around, trying to figure out the next step.
What makes postrock so close to being mainstream is the ability it gives the listener to create his or her own interpretations of the songs. Generally these are wordless, epic, guitar-driven white noise anthems. At its best, postrock lets the listener move from being a passive participant to an active one, giving them a prominent role in the creative process, which for a non-musician like myself, is pretty appealing. Sure, there's an assumed story, but like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, it's up to you what path you take.
On their new record, All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone, Explosions in the Sky continue on with their same successful pattern. Songs ebb, flow, build, and release, all relying heavily on the weight of the guitar, from the opening sinewy, crystalline notes to the final (like their name suggests) explosion of noise. It's a formula they've stuck closely by, at times perhaps a little bit too much. What seemed refreshing and new a few years back is on the verge of turning into yesterday's news. With bands like Do Make Say Think and Jesu pushing the creative boundaries slightly more, Explosions have pigeonholed themselves into a specific sound—albeit a great one—but redundancy is no way to continuously build and keep a fanbase.
Truth be told, postrock will likely never make it big. As much as I enjoy seeing bands I love become wildly successful, it's just not in the cards for Explosions in the Sky. Sure, they'll continue to grow and be awesome, and hell, maybe they'll even make an episode of Grey's Anatomy, but music without words is just too archaic of an art form for today's society. With the onset of song-by-song downloading, the art of the album is slowly dying, and Explosions in the Sky are not a band that will ever have a "successful" single. Much like reading, to those who do it it's sincerely rewarding, yet mainstream culture would probably rather watch television. So short-attention span be damned. Grab the musical equivalent of Hooked on Phonics and learn to love that postrock.