First review - ITAOTS by Neutral Milk Hotel

Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea [1998]
Genre: Indie
Rating: 8/10 - Excellent
Download link

This album is for some reason very popular on a image board I tend to frequent (/mu/). The main reason is probably that the board is absolutely filled with hipsters. This album is even know as the king of hipsters.
This album is especially popularized by the music review site Pitchforked, which gave it a 10/10. While I won't go as far as calling it an absolute masterpiece, I have to admit that it's pretty darn good. If you haven't listened to this yet, I advise you to do it at least once.

It starts with a catchy guitar riff while a little moment later we are introduced to Jeff Mangum's abstract lyrics. The lyrics are actually quite poetic, and I actually find the verse "As we would lay and learn what each other's bodies were for" very beautiful. I won't go into the details of it's content, but overall I think this is a good start to the album.

Then comes the ambient background noise paired with the slowly played chord progression in this second track - The King of Carrot Flowers Part II & III. Most non-Christians get annoyed by Mangum's praising of Jesus. I would be one of them, but I got used to it.
Having praised Jesus a beautiful horn composition pops up, followed by a good punch of a energetic heavily distorted guitar. The lyrics go on together with the guitar, but to be honest I can't make much sense out of them.

The next song is the title song - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. Like most title songs - they are definitely not the best song on the album. It does have beautiful lyrics, and once again an excellent horn composition, but other than that it's fairly boring. The weird ghost-like sound on the background of this song gives an awesome effect, though.

The fourth track - Two Headed Boy Part I - is quite remarkable. The simple acoustic guitar on the background somehow gives a dramatic effect. Jeff Mangum's voice, although slightly annoying, does an excellent job in expressing emotions. The lyrics are once again slightly odd, e.g. "And they'll be placing fingers through the notches in your spine" is not something that makes much sense to me. Ah well, other than that the lyrics are poetic (though hard to interpret) and very beautiful. But I do get the feeling that Mangum was trying so hard to be poetic that he went to far, and created some abstract blurting that only has a poetic feel to it.

The next song - The Fool - is instrumental. I get the feeling that it's more of a soft filler song that is supposed to calm the listener down after the rather emotionally heavy Two Headed Boy Part I. The horns are not bad in this composition, but they lack a bit of emotion.

The sixth song (Holland, 1945) is about Anne Frank, and starts of with a very distorted guitar that is apparently typical to indie music. The lyrics once again don't make sense, but do have that poetic feel. I do love the verse "The earth looks better from a start - that's right above from where you are". It just somehow has a beautiful tone to it.

The next song is called 'Communist Daughter'. It's not bad, but perhaps still one of the worst from the album. After dozens of listens I still cannot interpret the often repeated verse "Semen stains the mountaintops". How high do you have to be to make something up like that?

Next song. Oh Comely. Very emotional. In my opinion this is the best track on the album. Maybe it's because of the combination of the beautiful raw emotion and the fact that the lyrics actually make some sense. Incidentally it's also the longest track of the album, at slightly over eight minutes.
What I love maybe most of this track are the breath taking horns that come after the fairly quite piece about 5 minutes into the song. Then after that another quiet part slowly building up to the last horn composition at the beautiful verse "Let your skin begin to blend with mine."

Just like The King of Carrot Flowers Part I there is another energetic but emotionally light piece right after Oh Comely. This song (Ghost) allows you to take a small breather after building up to the final song of the album.
I love the energetic beat on the background of Ghost, as well as the melodic horn composition. The lyrics once again don't make sense, but in this case they aren't really deep and poetic either. Maybe too much of a breather ofter Oh Comely.

The second to last piece - Untitled- is just a short bagpipe piece accompanied with a heavily distorted guitar and some weird instrument playing some weird chord on the background, I suspect it to be a synth. Drums and bass guitar are also present, and add a nice rythm.
The ghost like effect introducing the climaxial last song of the album is lovely. Which brings me to:

Two Headed Boy Part II. This song starts out with Mangum singing accompanied by a acoustic guitar playing simple chords. The lyrics of this song are poetic, and good enough to be called literature. Not giving up on the general weirdness of the lyrics in this album, Mangum sings with his rough and emotional force about the two headed boy. The weird thing is, you have no idea what's going on, and what the supposed two headed boy is going through. Nonetheless you still fill sympathy for the boy. This song honestly sends shivers down my spine every time I hear it.

This signals the end of the album, and consequently also the end of the review. This being my first review I would love suggestions, although I highly doubt anyone would ever have the patience to read all of this. Never imagined it to take this long to write a review either, but I could type fast enough to not have to pause the album which was playing on the background as an aid.

(Holy crap, I actually wrote more than 1,000 words)

1 opmerking:

  1. Nice! Make sure you continue this blog to keep it alive... also make it look a tad more attractive. :P
    But nice job, I'm listening to NMH right now