Neutral Milk Hotel
In the Aeroplane Over the Sea


5.0
classic

Review

by dupuisj8 USER (11 Reviews)
June 29th, 2011 | 55 replies


Release Date: 1998 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A powerful and human exploration into sound

It’s hard to begin when talking about Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea. There are so many elements in play that dissecting them one by one serves as a daunting task. From the lyrical ambiguity to the expression of sound heard from the nine members. It is also particularly difficult to stay modest with my opinions on this album because I believe that what Singer/Songwriter Jeff Magnum has created is nothing short of the essence of music. And though that certainly must come off as a bold thesis it is also one that I am confident I can competently defend. Though not immediately apparent I believe that juxtaposition is one of the most powerful elements in this album, namely the juxtaposition between lyrics and sound. And perhaps juxtaposition is the wrong word for it and the better word would be balance. Because within this album we hear a balance between simple and pure instrumental work counterbalanced by lyrics which have famously been considered strange and absolute in their ambiguity.

Lyrics, thus are the first aspect of this work that I will examine. Magnum’s words from an objective stance initially come off as almost completely nonsensical with verses pertaining to everything from love, life, religion, death and most intriguingly, sexuality. And though you could spend hours reading online print-outs of the lyrics you would probably come to find that his songs seem to be about whatever you would like to believe they are about. The metaphors at play are often anything but clear cut and I believe that this was in actuality Magnum’s intention. Because the listener can only speculate what the songs are about but it is not difficult to hear what Magnum is really saying. From the opening tracks to both parts of Two Headed Boy there is honesty in the idea that no matter how many strange metaphors strain from his voice there really are no ways of describing a pure feeling. And in this acceptance there is beauty in listening to Magnum’s futile attempts of describing all the things that pain him. Sometimes I would find myself singing along to O Comely and there would be a certain point of empathy; that whatever secrets I was following along with were very grave and very sad. Another small but important theme within Magnum’s lyrics are his subtle but stirring verses regarding sexuality. They play at a level below any thesis within his songs but allude to a certain feeling of regression and confusion that I found quite powerful.

All of this rests on top of often very expressive guitar and horn work. I should say right now that instrumentally this album is neither thin nor simple however the melodies always seem to complement but never interject on Magnum’s voice. There is always a respectful balance between lyrics and melody. The simplicity of the sound juxtaposed with the complexity of what is being sung. Not all of the sound is so simple though. This can be heard in the album’s two instrumentals: The Fool and Untitled. These songs portray feeling and energy just as powerfully as Magnum’s voice otherwise would. Untitled in particular altogether makes you forget that you are listening to such a strange album and reminds the listener that at its heart Neutral Milk Hotel is still a rock band. A lot of what has been constructed within the album is incredibly powerful even in the wake of what on first listen could be considered silly or melodramatic.

And melodrama is a particularly unique tool used by the band to enrich the messages of their songs. In The King of Carrot Flowers Pts. 2&3 Magnum sings ‘I love you Jesus Christ’ in an obnoxious and almost mocking tone giving the listener a feeling of uncertainty towards what is being heard. It feels as if the listener’s senses are being played off of making it a confusing album to sit down and examine. The Fool is another example of a song that sounds silly at first with its horns playing a sad but messy marching tune. But in the intensity of that song you can feel the weight of the sound on your shoulders. It is unusual to hear horns in rock and alternative but I came to find it incredibly expressive and one of the more important factors contributing to overall the success of the album.

At the beginning of this review I stated that I believed In The Aeroplane Over The Sea captured the essence of what music is. When I say that I mean that after listening to the light songs and the dark songs and all of the highs and lows and strangeness a certain feeling is realized and there really are no words for it. And just as Magnum reaches with every strange sentence he writes I too find myself reaching to find the right words for what is encapsulated within that wonderful album. A thing so completely balanced that it hardly exists at all; it simply rests on par with the human frequency. It seems to me a work of supernatural genius and something at its heart wholly expressive.



Recent reviews by this author
Kevin Devine BubblegumPlacebo Loud Like Love
Phantogram Eyelid MoviesDntel Life is Full of Possibilities
Jim James Regions of Light and Sound of GodStars Heart
user ratings (3465)
Chart.
4.5
superb
other reviews of this album
1 of

Comments:Add a Comment 
YetAnotherBrick
June 29th 2011


4507 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Really good review, if a bit wordy.

"A thing so completely balanced that it hardly exists at all; it simply rests on par with the human frequency."
I love you for this sentence. I agree 110% and it's beautifully written. Kudos.

Album is one of my favorites ever.

Digging: Soul Coughing - Ruby Vroom

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
June 29th 2011


7404 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Good review, my only criticism would be that it's a bit wordy in places.

Love this album, but not quite enough to 5 it.

Maniac!
June 29th 2011


26257 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

lol another 5 review

ECRbubs
June 29th 2011


687 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

best album ever

Tyrael
June 29th 2011


20946 Comments


O hai

Digging: Azealia Banks - Broke With Expensive Taste

omnipanzer
June 29th 2011


21646 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

No it really isn't

YetAnotherBrick
June 29th 2011


4507 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

it is [2]

omnipanzer
June 29th 2011


21646 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

For me it's a 1 but I 3 it out of respect. Possibly the most boring piece of music I can think of. If I made a list called music to be super fucking bored to It would contain this and a few Emery albums.

Tyrael
June 29th 2011


20946 Comments


If I made a list called music to be super fucking bored to It would contain this and a few Emery albums.

If you weren't such a cool dude I would be so mad right now

YetAnotherBrick
June 29th 2011


4507 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

boring? lol

FromDaHood
Contributing Reviewer
June 29th 2011


9065 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

@ omni I'd stick some joanna newsom in there too

omnipanzer
June 29th 2011


21646 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Okay without the "over the top" crap, I really don't like this album and it's even from my era. I've
tried to listen to it a few times over the years and it really doesn't do anything for me. I have no
idea why they get compared to Modest Mouse either. Modest Mouse is clearly the better group IMO.

eggsvonsatan
June 29th 2011


1087 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

God. I can't wait until people realize that this is album is really just a gold-plated turd.

Maniac!
June 29th 2011


26257 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Love you Omni.

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
June 29th 2011


23976 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

"God. I can't wait until people realize that this is album is really just a gold-plated turd."

I can't wait until you realize that this is an opinion.

I kind of understand people not liking this album as I used to think it was overrated. But (cliche) it hit me one day and it's now one of my all-time favourites.

Digging: Marketa Irglova - Muna

Crymsonblaze
June 29th 2011


7527 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Pretty much same here.

Really the only reason I think most people don't like this is they can't adjust to his voice. Probably putting words in peoples' mouths, but there ya go

Titan50
June 29th 2011


4588 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I have no idea why they get compared to Modest Mouse either. Modest Mouse is clearly the better group IMO.


Never heard that comparison in my life

Excellent review

Pyosisified
June 29th 2011


2450 Comments


lol another 5 review [2]

omnipanzer
June 29th 2011


21646 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

"Never heard that comparison in my life"

I have, more than once.

"Love you Omni."

I did notice our like mindedness B.

Maniac!
June 29th 2011


26257 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

< 3


MM is obviously better



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2014 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy