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on 5 December 2004
I'm not the type to spend my time writing reviews, but seeing the paucity of reviews on this album, I was compelled to rave for a minute. Neutral Milk Hotel is an amazing phenomenon. Many bands do a fine job of walking the line between sounding accidentally incredible and getting lost in a sea of sound. But NMH stands alone in the ability to seamlessly integrate the full spectrum of SOUND with subtle, desperate lyrics. This album and The Aeroplane Over The Sea are both excellent. Avery Island is a bit more accessible, with more distortion and a fuller sound. Aeroplane has more acoustic guitar and a starkly real sound. If you're turned off by off-key singing, you will likely be a bit jarred at first, but don't be fooled: every slight crack in Jeff's voice is carefully placed. You owe it to yourself to give this a very serious listen: it is rare in music these days to find something so innovative but still so beautiful. Buy it if you like other Elephant6 bands (Apples In Stereo, Elf Power, Beulah, Olivia Tremor Control, etc), Modest Mouse, Pavement/Malkmus, etc. Buy it!!
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on 19 December 2003
I was drawn to NMH after accidentally stumbling across files on the Internet from their 2nd album, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea. Having listened and loved the aforementioned, they fast became my favoutite band. I began to seek the back-catalogue, which is basically this CD and the 'Everything Is' single, although Jeff Mangum has done some solo recording too. Anyway, THIS ALBUM IS FANTASTIC. BUY IT. It took me a good few listens to really appreciate its simultaeneous intricacy and rawness of feeling, but once you get over the odd sounds and death-rant suicide lyrics, you'll find what's possibly the best album, ever recorded, ever. EVEN better than 'In An Aeroplane Over The Sea'. And that's Saying Something. Buy!
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on 27 August 2000
I don't know how or why I bought this record by a band which in England at least remains more obscure than aether, but it truly is a magical experience. The opening track 'Song Against Sex' steals the show with oblique suicide lyrics sung to a rockabilly beat unlike anything you've heard before. The CD is worth it just for that - similar to Holland, 1945 on their following LP or Summer Babe by Pavement as music that saves. The album overall is patchy but shows flashes of genuis that marks Neutral Milk Hotel out as the possible saviours of Lo-Fi rock.
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on 8 March 2006
As a result of the expansive greatness of the second Neutral Milk Hotel album, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, which recounts the life of Anne Frank against a kaleidoscopic backdrop of bizarre characters and heartfelt (yet childlike) imagery in a way that is both interesting (in a conceptual sense) and emotionally effecting, On Avery Island will always be somewhat disregarded as the clumsier, less expansive footnote, that simply worked as a necessary building block to Mangum's grand opus. Although some of these factors are true, On Avery Island remains a fascinating album in it's own right, once again blurring a fragmented and fractured narrative against a musical backdrop of fuzzy bass lines, clamouring drums, electronic noise, acoustic guitars (run through amplifies and shot with distortion), and the early use of horns that would become more pronounced after the arrival of Scott Spilane and the rest of the core Neutral Milk Hotel line-up during this album's subsequent tour.
On Avery Island, like In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, was recorded over a long period of time by Jeff Mangum and Elephant 6 guru Robert Schneider on a four track recorder, with the duo playing most of the instruments themselves, with a few friends from fellow Elephant 6 bands the Apples in Stereo and The Olivia Tremor Control offering further assistance. As a result, the album is more singular and intimate in sound than the aforementioned masterpiece to follow, with the continuing use of fuzzy guitars, drums, bass and various electronic touches developing a completely different sound to Aeroplane's more acoustic fuzz-folk doodlings. For those familiar with the second album, the sound of On Avery Island is most similar to tracks like The King of Carrot Flowers pt. 3 (aka Up and Over), the Anne Frank montage Holland 1945 and the clamouring stream of conscious ramble Ghosts. You can also see the influence of fellow American indie-rock acts like Pavement, Sonic Youth and the Pixies, as well as those core Elephant 6 influences The Beatles, Pink Floyd and the Zombies.
The album opens with a piercing burst of electronic noise and feedback (with Schneider and Mangum conversing about the song ahead), before we surge into the distorted two-chord ramble, Song Against Sex. Like the rest of the album, the lyrics are dense and fragmented beyond recognition, so that the songs (and the album as a whole) can only really be interpreted on a personal level. So, Song Against Sex has been viewed as both an anti-drug song and a song against suicide, though it certainly has elements of a yearning for true love and longing, over empty thoughts of lust ("and its a lie that you've been giving / it just hurts you everyday / so why should I lay here naked / when its just so far away / from anything we could call loving / any love worth living for / so I'll sleep out in the gutter / you can sleep here on the floor"). You've Passed and Someone Is Waiting have a more 60's influenced, psychedelic edge, recalling The Olivia Tremor Control's great album Dusk at Cubist Castle as well as Neutral Milk Hotel contemporaries the Brian Jonestown Massacre, whilst also blurring into one another to further the conceptual theme!! A Baby for Pree establish an important part of the album's lyrical focus, acting as an ode to a pregnant friend of Mangum and Schneider, as well as introducing a mini-narrative preoccupation with suicide. In one on-line interview Mangum talks about a friend of his who committed suicide after years of physical abuse (whether this is true or not is unknown?), which can be seen as a focal point of songs like Where You'll Find Me Now, Three Peaches, Naomi, April 8th and related songs like Ghosts, Two Headed Boy pt 2 and the unreleased track Little Birds, which is more cohesive in it's tale of sexual abuse, murder and redemption.
The three chords of A Baby for Pree are left bare and acoustic to offer contrast to the fuzzy instrumentation found throughout the rest of the album, though the same chords and structure re-appear in the later song Where You'll Find Me Now, which is further linked by the buzzing instrumental Marching Theme, meaning that the three songs are linked thematically, or indeed further linked by Avery Island/April 1st and Gardenhead/Leave Me Alone. Gardenhead... is a fascinating song, one that captures the frenzied, stream of conscious style, with Mangum's wavering voice spilling out random and seemingly unconnected lyrics that capture a mood rather than a story ("there are beads that / wrap around your / knees that crackle / into the dark / like a walk in the park / like a hole in your head / like the feeling you get / when you realise you dead / this time"). The middle part of the song is captivating, creating a sense of confusion, dread and hazy nostalgia, with Mangum singing "we ride roller coasters / into the ocean / we feel no emotion / as we spiral down / to the world / and I guess it's worth your time / that there's some lives you live / and there's some you leave behind...", before the song breaks from the previous two chords into the second phase, Leave Me Alone.
Three Peaches, Naomi and April 8th further the story of the suicide and possibly hint to the notion of someone being consumed by a love for someone who's passed away, with Mangum talking about characters locked in the bathroom carving "holiday designs" into their flesh, or prettiness and emptiness "swollen shut". This portion of the album is both dark and claustrophobic, with none of the hope and devotion of Aeroplane..., and yet, the songs still come close to indie-pop in the traditional sense!!! The album ends with the 14 minute pure-noise instrumental Pree Sisters Swallowing a Donkey's Eye, which is close to Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music, though with perhaps a touch more melody. For me, On Avery Island is a dark, complex and emotionally affecting piece of work that more than lives up to Mangum's more acclaimed and emotionally expansive 1997 follow up.
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on 6 February 2007
Last year I discovered Neutral Milk Hotel, although sadly they are now defunct due to Jeff Mangum's sad, self-imposed exile from music making. I was utterly taken aback from the first play of "In The Aeroplane Over The Sea". Here was an album that defied description, defied genre and was without doubt one of the greatest pieces of work I've ever heard. I didn't dare listen out for anything else by Jeff Mangum - surely nothing could live up to the staggering brilliance of "In The Aeroplane" or could it? Eventually I took the plunge to find out whether or not he was a one album man. I ordered "On Avery Island" from Amazon at full list price. I waited.....I waited....I waited some more. Finally, I got an e-mail from Amazon saying they were unable to supply this album. So....I went for the Amazon marketplace option (Caiman if you want to know - and cheaper). In the end this has been flown to me across the Atlantic. Does it travel? You bet it does!

This is outstanding, absolutely outstanding! Its about as close as could be to matching "In The Aeroplane" without actually doing it. As a first album this shows the genius that was to come in his better known release (sad he really isn't more widely known).

The tone is Lo-Fi as was "In The Aeroplane". If anything "On Avery Island" has even more of the home made style that makes "In The Aeroplane" so staggeringly good. It's got the same slightly out of tune singing that Mangum is noted for, the same brass accompaniment that never gets in the way of a great rock record, the same variation in pace betwen tracks, and the same obscure but intriguing lyrics.

The opener "Song Against Sex" is a stomping fast-paced rocker that never lets up. The pace slows for "You've Passed" (which sounds like it might have been recorded in a garage!) - absolutely wonderful keyboard lines in here. The pace (and the noise) assuredly picks up for "Someone Is Waiting" which follows straight on without a break. Then we have the superb "A Baby For Pree" - this is straight out of "In The Aeroplane" without doubt - it's as good as anything on that album! In the same vein is "Where You'll Find Me Now" before the gentler, brassy interlude of "Avery Island". Then comes THE winning track, "Gardenhead". I haven't the faintest idea what Mangum is on about here but who cares, this is just absolutely unbelievably good. Easily as good as anything he ever did. The album has a few more tracks all of them as good as anything that has gone before. It closes with the bizarre fourteen minute long "Pree Sisters - Swallowing a Donkey's Eye". Only Jeff Mangum could pull this off. Just noises, but hypnotic noises.

This is just so, so good. If you've heard "In The Aeroplane" and you liked it (I can't believe you didn't) buy this. Buy it now! You are missing out on a treat here if you haven't got this. (9/10)
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on 19 March 2016
The lesser known of the two LP's from Jeff Mangum's brainchild Neutral Milk Hotel. The now-famous 'In The Aeroplane Over the Sea' being the band's mega-hit album, it's easy to not know or have never delved into On Avery Island and I was the same before I picked up this great record. The feel of the music is quite different from Aeroplane, in which each song felt part of a singular, cohesive entity.

This album has a few tracks I don't care for which lessens the album for me somewhat but the tracks that are great are really great music and warrant having the record in my collection.

The Vinyl contains:

Songs Against Sex,
You've Passed,
Someone Is Waiting,
A Baby For Free,
Marching Theme,
Where You'll Find Me Now,
Avery Island/ April 1st,
Gardenhead/ Leave Me Alone,
Three Peaches,
Naomi,
April 8th,
Pree-Sisters Swalling A Donkey's Eye,
Everything Is...,
Snow Song Pt. 1

There was also download code for the tracks, however at the time of posting the website is being revamped and this feature is unavailable - however Amazon allowed downloading through their Auto-rip service for those who want an eletronic copy of this album.

Favourite tracks: April 8th, Song Against Sex, Everything Is..., Gardenhead/Leave Me Alone and Where You'll Find me Now.

Discogs link:[...]
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on 29 November 2007
As a result of the expansive greatness of the second Neutral Milk Hotel album, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, which recounts the life of Anne Frank against a kaleidoscopic backdrop of bizarre characters and heartfelt (yet childlike) imagery in a way that is both interesting (in a conceptual sense) and emotionally effecting, On Avery Island will always be somewhat disregarded as the clumsier, less expansive footnote, that simply worked as a necessary building block to Mangum's grand opus. Although some of these factors are true, On Avery Island remains a fascinating album in it's own right, once again blurring a fragmented and fractured narrative against a musical backdrop of fuzzy bass lines, clamouring drums, electronic noise, acoustic guitars (run through amplifies and shot with distortion), and the early use of horns that would become more pronounced after the arrival of Scott Spilane and the rest of the core Neutral Milk Hotel line-up during this album's subsequent tour.
On Avery Island, like In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, was recorded over a long period of time by Jeff Mangum and Elephant 6 guru Robert Schneider on a four track recorder, with the duo playing most of the instruments themselves, with a few friends from fellow Elephant 6 bands the Apples in Stereo and The Olivia Tremor Control offering further assistance. As a result, the album is more singular and intimate in sound than the aforementioned masterpiece to follow, with the continuing use of fuzzy guitars, drums, bass and various electronic touches developing a completely different sound to Aeroplane's more acoustic fuzz-folk doodlings. For those familiar with the second album, the sound of On Avery Island is most similar to tracks like The King of Carrot Flowers pt. 3 (aka Up and Over), the Anne Frank montage Holland 1945 and the clamouring stream of conscious ramble Ghosts. You can also see the influence of fellow American indie-rock acts like Pavement, Sonic Youth and the Pixies, as well as those core Elephant 6 influences The Beatles, Pink Floyd and the Zombies.

The album opens with a piercing burst of electronic noise and feedback (with Schneider and Mangum conversing about the song ahead), before we surge into the distorted two-chord ramble, Song Against Sex. Like the rest of the album, the lyrics are dense and fragmented beyond recognition, so that the songs (and the album as a whole) can only really be interpreted on a personal level. So, Song Against Sex has been viewed as both an anti-drug song and a song against suicide, though it certainly has elements of a yearning for true love and longing, over empty thoughts of lust ("and its a lie that you've been giving / it just hurts you everyday / so why should I lay here naked / when its just so far away / from anything we could call loving / any love worth living for / so I'll sleep out in the gutter / you can sleep here on the floor"). You've Passed and Someone Is Waiting have a more 60's influenced, psychedelic edge, recalling The Olivia Tremor Control's great album Dusk at Cubist Castle as well as Neutral Milk Hotel contemporaries the Brian Jonestown Massacre, whilst also blurring into one another to further the conceptual theme!! A Baby for Pree establish an important part of the album's lyrical focus, acting as an ode to a pregnant friend of Mangum and Schneider, as well as introducing a mini-narrative preoccupation with suicide. In one on-line interview Mangum talks about a friend of his who committed suicide after years of physical abuse (whether this is true or not is unknown?), which can be seen as a focal point of songs like Where You'll Find Me Now, Three Peaches, Naomi, April 8th and related songs like Ghosts, Two Headed Boy pt 2 and the unreleased track Little Birds, which is more cohesive in it's tale of sexual abuse, murder and redemption.

The three chords of A Baby for Pree are left bare and acoustic to offer contrast to the fuzzy instrumentation found throughout the rest of the album, though the same chords and structure re-appear in the later song Where You'll Find Me Now, which is further linked by the buzzing instrumental Marching Theme, meaning that the three songs are linked thematically, or indeed further linked by Avery Island/April 1st and Gardenhead/Leave Me Alone. Gardenhead... is a fascinating song, one that captures the frenzied, stream of conscious style, with Mangum's wavering voice spilling out random and seemingly unconnected lyrics that capture a mood rather than a story ("there are beads that / wrap around your / knees that crackle / into the dark / like a walk in the park / like a hole in your head / like the feeling you get / when you realise you dead / this time"). The middle part of the song is captivating, creating a sense of confusion, dread and hazy nostalgia, with Mangum singing "we ride roller coasters / into the ocean / we feel no emotion / as we spiral down / to the world / and I guess it's worth your time / that there's some lives you live / and there's some you leave behind...", before the song breaks from the previous two chords into the second phase, Leave Me Alone.

Three Peaches, Naomi and April 8th further the story of the suicide and possibly hint to the notion of someone being consumed by a love for someone who's passed away, with Mangum talking about characters locked in the bathroom carving "holiday designs" into their flesh, or prettiness and emptiness "swollen shut". This portion of the album is both dark and claustrophobic, with none of the hope and devotion of Aeroplane..., and yet, the songs still come close to indie-pop in the traditional sense!!! The album ends with the 14 minute pure-noise instrumental Pree Sisters Swallowing a Donkey's Eye, which is close to Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music, though with perhaps a touch more melody. For me, On Avery Island is a dark, complex and emotionally affecting piece of work that more than lives up to Mangum's more acclaimed and emotionally expansive 1997 follow up.
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I should have bought this album before 'In the aeroplane over the sea' which is the latter and much more polished Jeff Mangum offering.

Although Avery Island is a little less accessible it is still a thought provoking and, dare i say it, groundbreaking album. However, if he held the fuzziness in abeyance just a tad more then the songs here would have had the sing-along! Stamp your feet quality of his second album.

There are some intriguing concepts here though, feedback and brass combining to make frankly bizzare marching music.

Although I cant in all honesty recommend this to the Neutral Milk Hotel it should be sought by the fan as it gives an insight into Mangums crazy tunes and is a strong prelude to In the aeroplane over the sea.
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on 24 August 2010
recived this by mail either 3 or 4 days after ordering, so damn fast. cardboard case, sporting both the merry-go-round cover, and the hand-drawn childrens dinosaur thingy cover (opens into a 3 penel case). if your afraid this album will be too diffrent from "in the aeroplane...", and won't be your cuppa tea it still contains some brass, fuzz acoustic guitar, and an "air organ" (i don't know what it it exactly either but it works well), but is a lack of "musical saw". still has the same great lyrical style that is found in the aeroplane, but the songs are less geared towards the holocaust and Anne Frank, and seems to be more about his own life. in all really pleased i got this album, and would urge anybody else to purchase it aswell.
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on 7 May 2012
I bought In the Aeroplane Over the Sea because I had intended to go to the ATP fest at Minehead 2011 but it was sold out. Liked the album so much I recently bought their earlier album On Avery Island. The latter has more of a Velvet Underground sound to it. Both albums are wonderful so I'm really annoyed I didn't get to see Jeff Mangum. Actually, his voice is pretty bad and I reckon the music could be bloody annoying if I was in the wrong mood. However, I love it.
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