Neutral Milk Hotel-In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

‘In the Aeroplane Over the Sea’ is a record that came to my attention only 2 months ago. I saw it on a review page on Instagram and figured I’d have a listen on Spotify to see what’s up. This isn’t what I would have always done because Spotify bothered me, but now I see it as a handy way to tease the ears for new tunes.

Upon listening to it I was blown away, literally! No, but I did think that it was something special. Then I dug a little deeper (not much I just Googled it) and found that it’s actually a highly praised record, one of the best of the 90’s and cited by many as one of the best ever! That’s high praise. Unfortunately I didn’t pass a record shop or see the light of day for the last month due to college work but a few week or two ago I found some time and bought it! So here we go…

Of the album, lead singer Jeff Mangum says that it’s mostly about Anne Frank. The lyrics make several references to her throughout and this concept was brought to Mangum after he read “The Diary of a Young Girl”. He says he “spent about three days crying” after reading it and that he was deeply moved by her story. The sound of the album is also something which makes it so special. It contains an array of instruments and jumps from being an acoustic sound to a full speed punk sound that even The Hives would be proud of. Noted for combining indie rock and a folk sound, the blend of sound and the thought provoking lyrics are what set it apart for me.

The albums opening two tracks run through one blistering, multi-instrumental full track titled ‘The King of Carrot Flowers Pt One, Pt Two and Pt Three’. The sound of the album is summarised in these two tracks with the lyrics in particular showing the mixed messaging of Jeff Mangums songwriting. I’ve listened to the record in full about 15 times and I still can’t fully make out the lyrical meaning. As with most albums I review, I find a few gems within that really stand out. These are less evident on ‘In the Aeroplane Over the Sea’  because the album is so good, but there are still some I put on repeat, one of which is In the Aeroplane Over the Sea’. Not only is there depth and meaning in Magnums tone but that same feeling is there in his guitar work. The sound is pure, as if he were playing in front of you at a house party. This goes for ‘Two Headed Boy’ as well and this track has actually become one of my favourite tracks not only of the past two months but of all time! The second half of this track, obviously titled ‘Two Headed Boy, Pt Two’ closes the album and does so in a more calming fashion that its predecessor.

Perhaps the best known track off the record is ‘Holland 1945’. This is another song which makes reference to Anne Frank and there’s simply no denying its power. Lightning fast, distorted, loud and totally energetic, its a combination of rock, indie and lo-fi. ‘Holland 1945’ in my opinion, ranks among the best tracks of that decade. ‘Oh Comely’ is another track that has been highly praised over the years for its lyrics, the story of a cheating Dad and how it affects his son’s view of  women, and ‘Untitled’, coming in toward the end is a magical instrumental piece which even features the bagpipes.

Though I often highly recommend albums and also have no reason not to, I’m just trying to find the best music and pass it on, I do have highly HIGHLY recommend ‘In the Aeroplane Over the Sea’ because it has a bit of everything and not too much of anything. It won’t blown your ears off or become repetitive and it certainly won’t bore you. Definitely go check it out.

G.M

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