Neutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

I find it highly unlikely that anyone would visit this page and not know this album, but perhaps you are my unknown visitors from Brisbane. Hello, visitors from Brisbane, should you be reading this! I hope you enjoy the website! I’ll try and write more and be less dis-something. Oh please, oh dear.

Like most people aged 20-30 who write about music in their spare time for no worthwhile reason, I have a largish mancrush on Jeff Mangum, and this album is the main reason (also: he’s more talented, reclusive, and adorable than I am) why. The personality! The joy! The sadness! The ranting about Anne Frank that we all kinda ignore so that we can imagine he’s actually singing about something Pan’s Labyrinth-ish! Really, there’s nothing too musically complicated here – I’m pretty sure “Ghost” is only one chord all the way through, for instance, but it’s never simplicity, and he never does the same things twice, and all the mood changes and the lyrics… Oh, it’s like something from a world that has never existed in the first place, all childhood fantasies and barely coherent language that coalesces somehow into gestalts of wonder and beauty. Okay, okay okay. I’m at work. This will be boring.

Don’t trust people who don’t like this album. They’re probably either trying too hard to one-up your indieness or being contrarian. There’s no acceptable reason for someone not to be impressed and moved by the high notes at the end of acoustic tale-o’-childhood-woe “King of Carrot Flowers Part One,” eight-minute minor chord multi-part holocaust memorial “Oh Comely,” and the happy happy untitled Scottish waltz thing. That’s just to name a few! There’s an Eastern-European instrumental of shaaaaaaame! A desperately sad song of loss! An upbeat stomp of reincarnation! A short strumalong of a haughty communist’s daughter! And, the best part, there’s not a melody hear that’s unhummable and not a wasted chord throughout. It flows well, it amuses slightly, it’s the kind of album that has songs you sing with your friends when you’re happy and reference when you’re sad. Mangum’s adorable personality is all over the place here: he’s aloof and a little shy, but at once both huggable and downright impressive. Sure, after this album the minor fame he gained would go on to destroy him and make him never record again, but this is great, great, great.

10/10

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