David Gordon Green is one of the strangest filmmakers out there. The man who was once hailed as the heir-apparent to Terrence Malick (through his early work, All The Real Girls and George Washington) started making breezy stoner comedies like Pineapple Express, The Sitter, and Your Highness. His most recent film, Prince Avalanche, looks to strike a balance between the two worlds: an existential film wearing the clothes of a half-baked comedy. Green has used David Wingo as his go-to composer for all but a handful of movies, so it's not so much a surprise that he's returning to compose Prince Avalanche. What is a surprise is that Wingo is doing it with the Texas post-rock group Explosions in the Sky.
Explosions in the Sky are no stranger to having their music used for scoring purposes. Critically acclaimed television show Friday Night Lights used the band's music heavily and to great effect. Because the instrumental band is pretty good at creating beautiful, sweeping arrangements, their work ends up in a lot of films and commercials. The band's last album, Take Care, Take Care, Take Care was released in 2011, so 2013's Prince Avalanche feels like a bit of a stop-gap. Fans looking for a true Explosions in the Sky record will probably be disappointed by the mostly quiet subdued soundtrack. This isn't an outright LP, it's a collaboration.
As a collaboration between Explosions in the Sky and David Wingo, it's often very difficult to tell where one artist ends and the other begins on this soundtrack. The hallmarks of the band, long songs with plenty of dynamics and movements, are mostly removed from Prince Avalanche. The bulk of the music here barely makes it over the 2-minute mark. Most of the music here feels like tiny mood-pieces -- these shorter bites aren't bad though, and each snippet creates a feeling of loneliness, melancholy, and isolation. The songs that do receive extended time, "Alone Time", "Hello, This is Your House", and "Join Me On My Avalanche" are by far the best on the soundtrack. These tracks allow Explosions in the Sky enough time and room to do what they do best.
"Join Me On My Avalanche" is probably the standout track here. The song is essentially a three-and-a-half minute build-up, with guitars, horns, vocals, and electronics. It's not over the top, and it doesn't feel like Wingo or Explosions in the Sky are going through the motions either. At its best, Prince Avalanche has the ability to create an emotional landscape for your mind to wander in. But unlike previous Explosions in the Sky records, this soundtrack won't send chills down your spine, and it won't make you feel much. It's pretty clear that the soundtrack was meant to supplement something, and as such the music never truly feels complete, save for some of the longer tracks. This soundtrack works better than the score Daft Punk did for Tron: Legacy or M83 for Oblivion. It works better because Explosions in the Sky has seemingly been creating scores this entire time for movies that don't exist yet. Prince Avalanche is a good, cohesive record, but it doesn't carry the emotional heft or impact as other Explosions in the Sky records.