Explosions in the Sky return with trademark bombast on their sixth studio album, Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, but a quick listen would suggest that the Austin-based band seems more interested in lending their work a broader instrumental edge beyond their mainstay of soaring, eruptive guitar hooks. After all, the bell-like guitar sound and pounding drum combination that the band has perfected over their career has slowly been forced to share room with other elements: The introduction of piano on All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone marked the first noticeable move away from their usual guitar singularity, and with Take Care, a smattering of vocal accompaniment and some experimental ambience have both taken up substantial supporting roles.
Of course, quick listens can often be deceiving, especially with a band as measured and purposeful as Explosions in the Sky. Most of the stabs at experimentalism on Take Care seem disingenuous, no more than the band’s halfhearted attempts at trying something slightly different before hastily getting back to the meat and potatoes.
Which isn’t necessarily a horrible thing, considering how well the band delivers their guitar-drenched, guilty pleasures. A track like “Postcard from 1952” finds Explosions in the Sky in top form, switching from melody to melody through the use of shuffling, arpeggio-driven arcs. The song undergoes the usual sweeps and orbits of loud-and-soft guitar pulses, climbing high and then dipping low in typical fashion. One of the band’s most frequently used musical techniques—building a powerful guitar-fueled crest that spans several minutes, calmly releasing it, and then building anew—gets a new wrinkle with the addition of looping atmospherics. “Last Known Surroundings” starts with the moan of siren-like feedback and dissonant string sampling, and is nearly unrecognizable as a typical Explosions in the Sky song until about four minutes in, when the familiar guitar crescendos start bubbling over the track’s brisk percussion. “Let Me Back In” mirrors that same path, dabbling in moody vocal ambience for two minutes before devolving into the standard formula.
Much of Take Care‘s other tracks follow suit, opening with some outside-the-box experimentalism (at least, by Explosions in the Sky standards) and then progressing into the expected post-rock fare. In the end, the Texas band can’t help but eventually indulge their desire to produce epic, guitar-driven film-score material, and after some initial feints into other territory, Take Care is business as usual.