Texas music sounds different in Texas. That sounds like it’s overly-valorizing Texas and running too close to the Steinbeckism about the state, but I think it’s true.
There’s something in the way that the landscape hits and augments music that was made in the state. And there’s something about the music that was designed to be played in the state too. I remember in college driving with friends to College Station from Austin and rolling through the Texas countryside on the highway at night as we listened to Explosions in the Sky while lightning cut across the sky off in the distance. The slow drums guitars that crescendoed into a loud medley of fast drums and guitars, works well with Texas’s rolling farmland and hills and, in the Western part of the state, the desert (I don’t exactly like this description, but I don’t have a better one.)
The music is a little melodramatic but, I didn’t mind that as much as a still untested and unjaded 20-year-old, in the way that most 20-year-olds don’t mind. That’s probably why Explosions in the Sky scores most of Friday Night Lights—both the TV show and movie—which are about kids who are only a little younger than 20.
I suspect that Texas’s topography influenced a lot of Explosions in the Sky’s music, intentionally or not. In at least one case, it definitely was created for the state. They were commissioned to make the soundtrack for Prince Avalanche, an underrated movie with Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsh about two guys repainting lines in the road that’s been burnt out by a forest fire.
The set was an actual burned down forest where they shot about a year after a forest fire. I didn’t have the chance to listen to the Prince Avalanche soundtrack and drive through the forest, Bastrop, while it was freshly burned. But I did make the drive through the newly torched woods sans Explosions. From my memory of passing by the grey and snapped, thin tree trunks, it fits.
Part of the reason I think that it’s tailored for Texas is because it doesn’t work in a lot of other places. On one of my first road trips after I moved to D.C. I put on Explosions on in the car, thinking it would be good pre-hiking music. It felt flat and unwelcome, driving around the closed-in Maryland woods. Texas music needs wide open scapes.
Explosions in the Sky is kind of popular, so it would be lazy to give you that as a recommendation. Instead I’ll recommend just the Prince Avalanche soundtrack and another post-rock instrumental group from Austin whose music goes well with the state, Balmorhea, named for a small town/state park with a big natural pool in West Texas.
Also, I checked Balmorheas “Where people listen” and they’re crushing it in Turkey. Their top three cities are Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir. I do not know why. One of their songs was used in a solidly successful 2015 Turkish movie, which might explain it. This seemingly trivial fact is in the “History” section of their Wikipedia page, so someone thought it was significant.
Jason Lee - Hwy 10 East of Van Horn