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61 of 63 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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61 of 63 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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12 of 12 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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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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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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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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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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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The epitome of the nostalgia and sadness of lost youth, 26 Jun 2014
By 
Mrs. E. Bambridge-sutton (Solar System) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: In The Aeroplane Over The Sea (Audio CD)
Bit of a pretentious review title, but god, is it true. This is one of the most emotionally effective albums I've ever heard, utilizing both blistering fuzzy rock and heart-renching bare bones acoustic guitar. Mangum's voice has often been critisized, but i can honestly say it is one of the most amazingly moving and imperfectly perfect voices ever to grace music. He strains it as we all do when we are singing about something we really care about, not in the calm control of a prefessional who just has a job, and wishes to entertain. Mangum dosen't care how his voice sounds, (it actually sounds very good), he is just getting his intense emotions out. And his intense emotions are about . . . Anne Frank, a girl who died seventy years ago. In the folk epic "Oh Comley", the height of poetic genius and surley the album's centrepiece, that he wished he could "save her in some sort of time machine".
The album opens with the beautifully clean guitar cords of "The King of Carrot Flowers" a three part song which speeds through a seemingly cheerful song of partner's abuse, hulicinations, incest and lonliness (it seems cheerful because of the music, but it really isn't), which then progresses into the much malighned "I LOVE YOU JESUS CHRIST" section, and then the final part. The third part of this song is possibly the most perfect miniute of music ever to grace human ears. That is only a slight exaggeration. And the intense emotional core of this song is perfected in the highlight of the album, "Ghost". The blistering fuzz blends with Jeff Mangum's transcendent lyrics to create a song full of pure beauty, describing the ascendence of a girl, presumably Anne Frank, to heaven, a song in which includes "milk and holy water, pouring from the sky" and "the morning paper blows, into a hole where no one can escape". It is possibly the most beautiful song ever recorded, certainly in terms of an almost religious, propulsive transcendence. This album, and this song in particular, are expert at creating that flush of feeling in the cheeks.
There are some other great songs here, too. "Two Headed Boy" utilizes the acoustic guitar to full effect, creating a highly emotional ballad, whilst the title track is about as wistful and positive as this album, or any album, gets, containing the line "what a beautiful face i have found in this place". The final song, "Two Headed Boy Part 2". is the exact oppisite, and is one of the most heart-wrenchingly sad songs ever written, containing mad rambling for the most part that seems to be fighting against the end of one's life, and the sadness of its waste. It speaks of brains pouring out of the teeth, and dead ones coming back to life, only to cry. All though at first it seems to contain no reference points to the original "Two Headed Boy", apart from its name, the last thirty seconds of the song mark its return, but in a slower, more contemplative tone, ending the album with a line of infinite beauty (I won't spoil it for you). Just to say, when I first heard it, i was overcome with emotion.
So, the lead single. "Holland 1945" is a tad overrated, and is probably the most straightforward rock track on the album. It does contain some great lyrical imagery, though, such as "now she's a little boy in spain playing painos filled with flames", and I understand why its a fan favourite.
One final note: This is not just for hipsters. My sister likes it, and she has quite a narrow music taste and rejects most of my music as "too weird".
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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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In The Aeroplane Over The Sea
In The Aeroplane Over The Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel (Audio CD - 2005)
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