Artist: "Neutral Milk Hotel"
Album: "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea"
Genre: Indie Music
Review: I have introduced this album to a lot of people, and every single one of them has fallen completely in love with it and thus gone on to introduce it to their friends, so that it continues to spread like a most enjoyable virus. From start to finish, this is one of the best albums I've ever heard. There's no question that this is one of my ten "Desert Island" albums, and it easily makes the top half of that list.
Not even half a minute into the first song, "The King of Carrot Flowers Part 1", it becomes evident that the mastermind behind Neutral Milk Hotel, Jeff Mangum, is a lyrical if not musical genius. His tale of two young lovers discovering each other's bodies as an all-too-temporary diversion from their dysfunctional, bickering, fucked up families is littered with a surreal mix of concrete and abstract (and often disturbing) images that are so remarkably transporting that you can't help but sit up and pay close attention. Moving into "The King of Carrot Flowers Part 2" temporarily makes you wonder if this isn't some kind of Christian revival music, with its frequent evoking of Jesus Christ's name, but those thoughts are quickly allayed as you move forward into the album.
One reviewer described the musical style of the album as "kaleidoscopic", and that's as good a word as you can pin to it, with its fuzzed out guitars, brass instruments, accordions, organ and other instruments that give the whole album the unique feel of mad 1920s carnival music tasting samples from the future. Lyrically and artistically (referring to the album art, here), the album conjures vague feelings of nostalgia, yearning, and loss, with its frequent, depressing, and somewhat abstract references to life in the early half of the 20th century.
The highlights of the album for me are "Holland, 1945", a beautifully depressing feedback-laden "fuzzy" song filled with heartbreaking lyrical references to the life of Anne Frank, and "Ghost", another beautiful, sad song about a girl who fell to her death from her 14th storey New York apartment. "Two-Headed Boy" (Parts 1 & 2) are loaded with powerful lyrical bombs that just jump out of the song and slice into your brain, evoking a strong sense of pain and sadness. This is by no means background music, but rather the kind of album that demands your complete attention, even after many listens.
This is definitely one of those albums that is meant to be heard as a whole, from start to finish, as not only do the songs often bleed into one another, but they form a very tight thematic whole that needs to be listened to in its entirety to be fully experienced. Mangum's voice may also not be the best in the world, but I'd rather hear a "rough around the edges" guy like this singing with some kind of real spirit inside him than some polished, soulless hack any day of the week. If you're fortunate enough to possess the sensibilities to fully appreciate an album like this, I guarantee that it will quickly become one of your all-time favorites. If you can be moved at all, this is an album that will surely move you.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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