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59 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful discovery
I stumbled across this recently. I have to admit that like most people this one had completely passed me by. This is an exceptional album. Utterly exceptional. I can honestly say that this must be one of the best albums I've ever heard. Just such a shame that it has taken so long to get to hear it. How Jeff Mangum didn't make it big I don't know (maybe the bands...
Published on 16 Sep 2006 by Mike J. Wheeler

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17 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Different View
I hate to be the one who goes against the grain on this - but I feel slightly disappointed by this one. I bought this album off the strength of the reviews alone as I have done with many others. I just feel it has been over-hyped - some reviews speak of this being `contender for the best album in the world ever' 'Close to perfection'- very strong words...really does...
Published on 17 May 2007 by D. Thompson


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59 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful discovery, 16 Sep 2006
By 
Mike J. Wheeler (Kingswinford, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: In The Aeroplane Over The Sea (Audio CD)
I stumbled across this recently. I have to admit that like most people this one had completely passed me by. This is an exceptional album. Utterly exceptional. I can honestly say that this must be one of the best albums I've ever heard. Just such a shame that it has taken so long to get to hear it. How Jeff Mangum didn't make it big I don't know (maybe the bands name!?).

The album is ostensibly a collection of songs inspired by events in World War II and particularly about treatment of Jews and Anne Frank in particular. If this sounds a bit heavy don't worry - musically this work is superbly bright and inventive whilst lyrically it is both fantastically provocative and profound.

Whilst based around the acoustic guitar playing of Mangum, the music benefits from multilayered instumentation including some excellent brass. The pace varies from the slow but heartfelt "Communist Daughter" and "Oh Comely" to the fast rock of "King of Carrot Flowers, Pts 2 and 3" via jazzy interludes of "Holland, 1945". Standout tracks are "Two Headed Boy", "King of Carrot Flowers" and "In the Aeroplane Over The Sea". However all of the tracks here are excellent. Wherever you look on this album there is inventiveness and originality. You can see how this may have influenced later artists as varied as Arcade Fire and Sufjan Stevens.

A wonderful discovery. A definite buy for anyone who likes good music.

10/10. This is by a long way my favourite album. In the few years since I wrote this I really think it's discovery has in many ways affected me and the way I've lived my life. It awakened a passion for music I didn't really know was there. Truly a one off.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars And they'll be placing fingers through the notches in your spine, 27 Oct 2009
This review is from: In The Aeroplane Over The Sea (Audio CD)
It is entirely possible that you will hate this album, I wouldn't question you if you did and you'd probably have your reasons. The music can be a catastrophe of angular sounds and jangling notes, the singing can be out of tune and raw and the lyrics are nothing short of baffling without serious investigation into the albums ideas.

But I don't know what it is about all of these things coming together that immobilises me from start to finish, unable to think outside the sounds presented to me. Upon first listening I left this album exhausted and with tears in my eyes. It's simply an overwhelmingly significant piece of music, every song being distinct and memorable with enough worthwhile content to write a review ten times the length of this for each one. If by and chance you could like this album then you owe it to yourself to buy it and make sure, because you may be missing out on something that could be very special to you.
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54 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I have never been more proud to own a CD, 31 Oct 2004
I don't know what has led you to this page, Neutral Milk Hotel are far from a well-known act and so I'm guessing it must either be a sheer stroke of good luck, or you've been given a tip off about it. Either way, your life is about to get better.
It's hard to pigeon-hole where the sound comes from - the other reviewers may do a better job than I will about describing precisely what it's like. The best way I can describe it, I think, is to say that it's discordantly beautiful. There's a near-riot of instruments battling each other for your attention, filling your ears with conflicting sounds but somehow coming out the other end in perfect harmony as they do so. It's also worth noting that it's far from your typically over-produced fare - nobody has spent three days tweaking the drum rhythms to get them precisely right so that they appeal to the widest cross-section of the target audience. Nobody has fiddled with sliders to get his voice spot onto each note. This is raw music, mainlining the melodies, the rhythms, and most of all the emotion straight from source. Joyous, sorrowful, imaginative, perceptive, evocative... it reaches inside you and yanks your soul awake and reminds you that you're alive. Like watching a flower grow in that fast-motion style that can make months pass in seconds - organic, natural, beautiful, and most of all full of the throb and pulse of Life with a capital L.
I just know that I think this is the best album I own, and probably will ever own, and that everybody I know who is fortunate enough to have found In The Aeroplane Over The Sea feels the same way. I don't know what Jeff Mangun did before this, and I don't know what he did after this. Very probably he never hit these heights, but right here on this little silver disc he produces a work of unique unrepeatable genius.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delight, 24 Aug 2006
This review is from: In The Aeroplane Over The Sea (Audio CD)
I first heard of Neutral Milk Hotel back in the summer of 1998. In a bar in Victoria, Vancouver Island a locaquious American chap, from Athens GA, was extolling the virtues of this group and their fellow Elephant 6 collective luminaries, Olivia Tremor Control, with evangelical zeal.

8 years on from that back-packing trip, after keeping In the Aeroplane Over the Sea in a holding pattern on the "must buy albums" radar, I finally succumbed to its burgeoning cult status and bought a copy last month.

I think I'm not alone in that I too experienced a tipping-point whereby the hitherto catterwaul of Jeff Magnum's voice, the falling-down-the stairs brass section and seemingly unfussy production suddenly became a majestic and beautiful suite of tunes. The melodies stick like glue and the lyrics, possibly plucked from David Lynch's notepad, are deeply moving. You are probably aware of the Anne Frank storyline and some of the imagery evoked by Magnum's lyrics is a million miles away from the usual pap found in chart twaddle.

If you do buy it, please give it time and be sure to listen to it end-to-end. My only regret is not giving this amazing record permission to land a good few years earlier.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My best find for a long time., 19 May 2005
I haven't written any reviews before on Amazon but this album is so great I want to encourage anybody who has arrived at this page to buy this album .... NOW.
I stumbled across this page whilst browsing through Amazon and bought it on the strength of the short samples and good reviews. I was hooked from the moment I put it in my c.d player.
Jeff Mangum has made a truly amazing album from start to finish. Each song has fantastic lyrics delivered by Mangum with his perfect singing style. He is undoubtedly one of the most accomplished singer / songwriters I have heard for a long time.
It's so hard to describe in words just why this album is so good. The bouncing quick lyrics that fit so perfectly, catchy and melodious acoustic guitars on one track followed by quick lo-fi sounding guitar rock on the next. The lyrics on each song fit so well and make me just want to hear them over and over again. I could go on for a lot longer but I would advise you to buy this and find out for yourself, you won't be disappointed.
I am looking forward to receiving my copy of On Avery Island which I ordered soon after hearing In The Aeroplane over the sea.
I give this album 5/5 without hesitation. I am just disappointed it has been out for 7 years and I have missed out for this long.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect, 2 Dec 2006
This review is from: In The Aeroplane Over The Sea (Audio CD)
Let's be clear about this - this is one of the most astounding records that have ever been made. On the surface of it though it seems unremarkable. Jeff Mangum's voice isn't instantly beautiful, the lyrics seem almost stream-of-consciousness, and the guitar seems primitive and repetitive. And yet every note played and sung on this is perfect. And I don't use that word lightly. This is a weird hypnotic acid trip of a folk-rock record. What initially sounds like a mess of wailing, three-note-strumming and squirted brass band harumphing becomes a fluid organic movement of music so rich and beautiful it makes you ache. In the end this sounds honest - from King of Carrot Flowers Pt 1 to Two Headed Boy Part Two you really do believe every word Mangum wails out. He really wants you to believe him, and you do, even if you can't decipher everything he says. And that is why it is astounding - there are very few records that can move from sounding poor and amateurish, to one of the most moving things ever heard. This is most certainly in my top ten of all time.
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How the notes all bend and reach above the trees., 27 Feb 2006
This review is from: In The Aeroplane Over The Sea (Audio CD)
As another reviewer previously noted... In The Aeroplane Over The Sea is a loose concept album, seemingly focusing on the era surrounding World War II, and inspired by the diary of Anne Frank. It's also a deeply personal and heartfelt album, one that strings together bizarre and often dreamlike lyrics that tend to focus on everything from quarrelling couples to murdered soldiers, with sidelines in funeral processions, executions, genocide and lonely side-show acts. It's an album that begins with an ode to The King Of Carrot Flowers, takes a trip in an aeroplane high above the sea, traverses through Holland 1945, and eventually climaxes with the last word of a reoccurring character... and the most heartbreaking song about unrequited love ever written.
I only heard the record for the first time in early 2005, but it's already one of my top three albums of all time, with Jeff Mangum's acoustic based tales of woe eventually working their way into my subconscious and grabbing hold of my imagination following numerous late-night listening sessions. It's an album that demands attention from the listener... not one to be raped and pillaged for the benefit of your iPod, or played in the background during dinner parties for your friends. You have to work at these songs, picking through the seemingly random stream-of-conscious lyrics, whilst somehow finding yourself entranced by the simple and repetitive strumming and occasional bursts of horns, pianos and other wild instrumental touches like organs, tape effects and singing saws.
The first song, King of Carrot Flowers Pt 1 is the easiest song to like on the first listen, with Mangum tapping into a hazy sense of monochromatic nostalgia, as he intones the opening line "when you were young you were the king of carrot flowers, and how you built a tower tumbling through the trees". The rest of the song continues that sense of looking back, with Mangum peppering his lyrics with childlike evocations, as a sweet harmonium counter-melody comes in to jar against the switch into darker lyrical territory, and we start to see the emergence of something much more sinister. At first, these lyrics seem absolutely random and completely indecipherable, but really, the more we listen to the album, the more we take from it. Everyone who listens to it will have their own personal interpretations of what Mangum's lyrics might be pointing to... I personally see it as an ode to unrequited love, and that dangerous kind of obsession that Mangum looked at in his post-Aeroplane song "Little Birds".
The album is perfectly put together, progressing seamlessly from the strummed folk of King of Carrot Flowers Pt 1, into the minimal King of Carrot Flowers Pts 2, which opens with some subtle guitar picking and a minimal burst of organ, with Mangum's trembling shout intoning the refrain "I love you Jesus Christ!!". Like much of the album, this earnest statement seems to be inviting ridicule, but, like the idea of yearning for Anne Frank, Mangum means it, and I feel privileged to be able to share in his sense of devotion. From here, we move into Carrot Flowers Pt 3 (subtitled Up and Over), which is something close to folk-psychedelia, as a bombardment of horns and some quickly strummed guitars enter the fray and the song moves off in a direction that brings to mind the band's first album, the urgent and distorted On Avery Island.
The entire album is a joy to listen to... one that I've been playing constantly since I first got it one that I'd hope to be playing for many more decades to come. The ideology of the band and the album itself begins to become clearer with songs like In The Aeroplane Over the Sea, and, in particular, Two Headed Boy, in which the album really just becomes a showcase for Mangum and his heavily-strummed acoustic guitar. As Andy Broder states on the re-issue sleeve, the album works because of the central juxtaposition, "lyrically, complex and gruesome... musically, simple and sweetly melodic". The title track builds around four basic verse chords (with some distant background instrumentation adding atmosphere) whilst Mangum and his evocative lyrics capture our imagination. The same can be said about Two Headed Boy, in which Mangum seems to be envisioning himself as a lost and lonely side-show performer, forced to watch the world go by from the confines of a glass-jar. It's a beautiful song; like the entirety of the album it's a stark combination of words and music that builds to something truly transcendent.
This album is really too great to put into words... from the Scott Spillane composed orgy of horns and Salvation Army style rhythms that is The Fool, through to the heartbreaking ode to Anne Frank, Holland 1945 ("the only girl I ever loved / was born with roses in her eyes / until they buried her alive / one evening 1945 / with just her sister at her side / and only weeks before the guns / all came and rained on everyone") and beyond that to the epic free-form ramble of Oh Comely... an eight-minute long character sketch that is probably the closest alternative-folk music ever has come to creating it's own Bohemian Rhapsody/Paranoid Android style moment of transcendence. I've not even mentioned the ghostly lament of the Communist Daughter, or the surreal, psychedelic instrumental with no name, or the defining moment for me, the gorgeous and heartbreaking Two Headed Boy Pt 2.
Here, Mangum makes himself clear... "in my dreams you're alive and you're crying / as your mouth moves in mine soft and sweet / rings of flowers round your eyes and I'll love you / for the rest of your life / in your reading". I'm not guaranteeing that you'll have as intense an experience listening to the album that I have... this record just means something to me... something greater than words could ever express.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect Album, 29 Dec 2008
This review is from: In The Aeroplane Over The Sea (Audio CD)
For more details read other reviews. At first I found this album a little difficult to get into, so if you feel likewise after first listen persist with it and eventually the music will reveal itself.

Kim Cooper's book (In an aeroplane over the sea) (Part of the 33 1/3 series). Comes highly reccommended as an accompanent, providing an overview of how the album was created and the mystery surrounding the band.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unforgettable excellence, 23 Nov 2000
Any talk of Elephant 6 invariably involves references to The Beatles and The Beach Boys, so obvious is their influence upon bands such as Olivia Tremor Control and Apples In Stereo. Neutral Milk Hotel share their love of melody, harmony and experimentalism, but go off into an altogether more wonderful direction, sounding in turns like Bob Dylan or Nirvana.
Quite simply, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea is a perfect album, essential and addictive. Jeff Mangum has the kind of voice that resonates so beautifully and implores so desperately that it's impossible not to be moved by his strange fairytale narratives and dark secrets. The themes that run through all the songs, and the way the sound ebbs and flows, bring you right back to the beginning once the 40 minutes of the album are over. Warning: you will listen to this on repeat play and the songs will be spinning around your head for weeks.
'Holland, 1945' and 'Ghost' are in a similar vein to the thrilling 'Song Against Sex' from On Avery Island, but with more layers of brass, more harmonies and more energy. However, the fuzz and muddy 'closet' sound of NMH's first album are largely replaced by eerie, otherworldly sounds (especially 'Communist Daughter') and stark acoustic narratives. The twin parts of 'Two-Headed Boy' and the meandering 'Oh Comely' are especially simple and affecting, weaving images and emotions like delicate tapestries.
The three parts of 'The King of Carrot Flowers' mutate from the catchy and joyous first part, through the yearning cry of "I love you Jesus Christ!" in part two, to the hurtling finale of part three, caught up in the "waves and undertow". The title track is perfect folk-pop ("How strange it is to be anything at all"). The two instrumentals, 'The Fool' and the untitled tenth track, add to the exultant but disorientating atmosphere, and the lyrics veer from impressions of digust at humanity to an unstoppable hope.
All the songs are just great, the artwork is superb, and I can't express how happy this record makes me.
BUY IT NOW.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Strange, Great Joy, 3 Mar 2006
By A Customer
This review is from: In The Aeroplane Over The Sea (Audio CD)
I've just put this album on after not owning it for about three years ...and am momentarily amazed by how I coped by not hearing it more often. Much has already been said about it but, in this album, you have a strange hybrid of different strands of music.. obviously there is an indie sensibility behind it, you have overdriven guitar, a chugginess to the acoustic guitars, mad horn breaks and such a tremendous, joyous pace to everything, topped by the mad whimsy of Jeff Mangum's vocal and lyrics that go where no lyrics have gone before. But there is a truth to the imagery he relates, borne of the conviction of his voice... in fact you won't come across this particular kind of sincerity in pop music very often, he tells stories, has visions, creates moods, evokes histories. I don't think I've heard an album opener so convinced of its own vision than 'The King of Carrot Flowers'. It is strange and beautiful to experience songs of such utter confidence, and part of what makes this record all the more pleasurable. If I have any conception of heaven it might be more than several large glasses of freezer-cold gewurtztraminer, a breezy summer day and this album played at full volume through resolutely open windows.
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