We present a non-comprehensive review of some representative experimental studies in crystalline condensed matter systems where the effects of intense ultrashort light pulses are probed using x-ray diffraction and photoelectron spectroscopy. On an ultrafast (sub-picosecond) time scale, conventional concepts derived from the assumption of thermodynamic equilibrium must often be modified in order to adequately describe the time-dependent changes in material properties. There are several commonly adopted approaches to this modification, appropriate in different experimental circumstances. One approach is to treat the material as a collection of quasi-thermal subsystems in thermal contact with each other in the so-called “N-temperature” models. On the other extreme, one can also treat the time-dependent changes as fully coherent dynamics of a sometimes complex network of excitations. Here, we present examples of experiments that fall into each of these categories, as well as experiments that partake of both models. We conclude with a discussion of the limitations and future potential of these concepts.