Review Summary: How strange it is to be anything at all...
The very first time I heard In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
I thought it was utter garbage. I remember I managed to get as far as “King of Carrot Flowers Parts 2 & 3” before throwing my hands up in confusion and exclaiming, “Fu
ck it!” So back up on the shelf it went after only the three minutes it took before Jeff Mangum screeched “I LOVE YOU JESUS CHRIST” at the top of his lungs. A short sample size, sure, but at that time my mind had been made up. I didn't get the hype. To be honest, to hell with just the hype, I didn't get it
. That would come five years later. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
soon became nothing more than a memory of a failed travel into lo-fi music, something to scoff at in the few instances it was brought up in conversation, until a midnight drive with a couple of friends when by chance “Holland, 1945” ended up blasting out my car speakers. I still can't tell if it was because I actually enjoyed the song or if it was just because of who played it, but something clicked since not only did I remember the song but the moment as well. It still took a year from that moment to fully come to appreciate In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
, but soon enough I came to see it for what it really was – perfect.
In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
is the most human collection of songs I have ever come across. It embraces its shortcomings like no other and does it in such a characteristic fashion that all the things that first appeared as flaws; Mangum's strained and off key vocals, the fuzzy analog production, the somewhat odd fascination with the Holocaust's most famous teenage victim, and the seemingly endless well of sexual angst, all tie in to the human experience like no other. In under forty minutes Mangum masterfully cycles through love, faith, lust, anger and hate, in a way that is achingly relatable but uniquely his own. While other stylistic contemporaries like Elliott Smith and Conor Oberst were at their best when they narrated life like the poet laureates of the night before, on In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
Jeff Mangum confronts his head on and trys to make something out of the madness of it all. The end result is a mess, but it is the most beautiful god damn mess I have ever heard.