Review Summary: Young romance written by a young poet.
A recording that is both pleasing and yet plagued by its length, the “Everything Is EP” was dipped in the sugary-sweet songwriting of Jeff Mangum and came out drenched. It is a dreamy musical estate containing the confessional Jeff many Neutral Milk Hotel fans are so fond of and familiar with. The songs leave one swimming with childish thoughts and desires for the dandy atmosphere of them, scrumptious tunes gleefully adding another essential collector’s item to the NMH catalog, and that it truly is with its myriad of different (rare) prints.
One could call Jeff Mangum a hopeless romantic and I’d agree. As a dabbling poet myself, I can tell you that your description is imperative and Mangum describes girls. Not women; women are mature, level-headed and don’t (usually) tease. Jeff Mangum’s girls are innocent, confused, cute…and can be referred to with dorky metaphors that represent not only longing but the kind of content a teenage boy may feel while snoozing on the shoulder of his girlfriend. These songs are written in the third-person, looking in from the outside at happy and sometimes apologetic memories. They are intensely visual as well; either directly introducing a character such as on “Snow Song Part 1” or crooning layered lyrical obsession as on “Tuesday Moon”. Jeff opens up more than most singer/songwriters, leaving hints and superficiality for children’s games designed to challenge the playground intellect. He embraces love whether or not it is in his favor and according to his songs, love is something more important to him than most other things. “Everything is beautiful here, it’s spinning circles ‘round my ears…I’m finally breaking free from fear, and it’s fading”. To him, beauty is a large part of love – he concentrates on the imagery these female variables paint in his mind. Their girlishly pristine appearances that magnetize Jeff send his heart sailing towards the sunset as it slips into the sea’s orangey, sensuously stimulated aperture.
Most good paintings that focus on a character require a backdrop that allow us to venture into whatever mood trying their little, colorful brains. When you aren’t listening to “Aunt Eggma Blowtorch” (a pensive collection of samples and recordings made in some bedroom, a slightly unorthodox noise broadcast, it certainly pertains to the quirky Neutral Milk Hotel standard) the fuzzily distorted cheap acoustic guitars and their poorly produced company are inviting you to relax. Surprisingly, this lack of proper recording equipment is as soothing an aspect as the chaste lyrics. These instrumentals recall to me emotion that I am constantly reminded of by great music, such as uninterrupted tranquil thoughts of romance. Since this particular Extended Play is quite romantic I’m thinking my reactions are fitting, and this record is so easily accessible (due mostly to its simplicity) I expect similar things to happen to you upon listening. But it can’t all be good – I understand that shortness is to be expected when it comes to an EP, but this recording’s theme would be best expressed in full-length album form…while “On Avery Island” covered much of “Everything Is” in a similar yet depressing form, these recordings still contain a dramatic tale that while told well ends far too abruptly. So one of my few cons is that I resent the decision to keep this record in EP format; clocking in under twenty minutes, we are whisked away as quickly as we are absorbed.
All in all I doubt I could ever hate the “Everything Is EP” despite its clear disregard for enormous potential. But the optimistic atmosphere of this is far too enveloping to keep me angry for long. These recordings encompass nearly every nook of the Neutral Milk Hotel sound, and while they don’t exactly hit the “Oh Comely” chord of epic proportion, they do well in what they set out to do. Highly recommended poetry put to simple and satisfying music.