Review Summary: Be prepared to be blessed with some of the best lyrics ever written, sung by the worst voice ever spoken.
If you look in indie's back catalog you might find that a band called Neutral Milk Hotel keeps popping up quite often. If you're like me, you'll wonder who this mysterious band is and do some background checking to find that they're one of the most popular bands in the history of indie. I can't tell you how many praises I've heard sung in the name of the band's leader Jeff Magnum. And I can understand the sentimentality of the issue; Magnum is a supreme lyrical writer, and having mastered the concept of the human language, layers this incredible album with some truly great prose lyrics. There are some real gems here scattered about through every possible song from King of Carrot Flowers part 1, 2, 3, all the way to the ending, Two Headed Boy. The lyrics are confusing but deep nonetheless, always painting a picture that you can easily visualize the entire length of the album's duration.
So after praising the lyrics so much like every other review I've ever seen, you might wonder why I only have given this a 2" It's because everything else is awful! Mostly Jeff Magnum's voice, could there be a more obnoxious, unlikable, stymied whine on the face of the planet" No, Justin Bieber doesn't count (sorry; it HAD to be mentioned). Magnum has the worst voice I've ever heard, plane and simple; it's like a normal man who's nervous had sex with an air horn. Suffice to say it, it's a painful experience. Not even the best lyrics in the world could save a voice like this, and its especially evident when Magnum goes for those high notes, the first being in the opening acoustic jam King of Carrot Flowers Part I. Other than the high part at the end, it's a pretty good acoustic song. But that high note and many to come, will completely destroy the album.
He's not the only offender though, the full band songs are plagued by awfully muddy, dry production that seems to value compression above all other forms of production. They also feel the need to have a weirdness factor by employing crazy sounds like the ghostly wail of whatever instrument is played during the verses of the title track Aeroplane Over the Sea. The highlight of the album has to be Communist Daughter however, because it is a short standard acoustic song with good lyrics, and Magnum keeps his voice low as to keep the frustrations to a minimum. Overall, it's a pretty good album lyrically but god is it ruined by the terrible production and the absolutely terrible vocals. Recommended only for the hardest of the hardcore fans of indie folk-punk.