Auditory Sensations

Jan 16, 2012 by

We’re always looking for new ways to entertain ourselves  our readers here at Old67, and you’ve just stumbled upon our newest attempt, Auditory Sensations.  Our contributors will feature an album from the past, write about their love of it, and why they think you should listen.  Remember when Natalie Portman gave Zack Braff the headphones in Garden State?  Well this is just like that, except we’re not Natalie Portman seductively whispering in your ear, we’re the guys at the party handing you a tab of ecstasy disguised as an album.

Auditory Sensations will be lot like the other features at Old67, there will be no real guidelines or rules.  Some call this “Artistic Freedom”; we call it patients running the asylum.  It just works better for us this way.  So Matt and I made sure that we stay true to the mission of Old67, provide a unique look into the landscape of sports, music, and pop culture, with a blatant disregard for rules on how and what we write.  This includes but is not limited to:  inconsistent posting frequency, differing formats, all over the board genres of music, and foul language, all with a great wave of passion.  Maybe this new feature will die after our first offering…..then again probably not.

We kick off Auditory Sensations, with the 1998 album by Neutral Milk Hotel titled In the Aeroplane Over the Sea written by Matt Ankerson. 

-Alan

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I am not an album reviewer.  I do not have the time, discipline, expert knowledge of music, or the writing chops to effectively compose an album review.  I have too much respect for the profession and would not want to do a disservice to those rock critics I admire by throwing out junk I wrote up.   I know if I begin critiquing albums I will be haunted by the ghost of Lester Bangs every night until I cease.

In 1998, I was too busy with my consumption of the Black Crowes to listen to a band like Neutral Milk Hotel, or any other band for that matter.  If Chris Robinson was not either influenced by it or listening to it, I would more than likely follow suit.  Those days were spent trying to uncover the “real” reason why Marc Ford and Johnny Colt left the Crowes.  I also spent an exorbitant amount of time wondering why on earth my favorite band would follow up the extremely underrated, yet excellent, album Three Snakes and One Charm with the painfully unlistenable By Your Side.

I had heard Neutral Milk Hotel a little throughout the 2000’s but never gave them much due or invested any time digging through their catalogue.  Just another adequate Indie band from the 90’s, I thought to myself.  Then in November of last year my friend Wes asked if I was interested in seeing Jeff Mangum in Chapel Hill in January, I not only said yes, but downloaded NMH’s catalogue on ITunes. 

Their second full length album, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, instantly struck a chord with me.  I was instantly floored by this beautiful mess of an album.  To quote my mother, “Good things do come to those who wait.”  Mom, you are correct once again, and what a good thing it became for me over the past few months.

I find great joy in turning people on to a band or particular album.  I typically search out a few like-minded music friends and often tell them about an album I think they would relish, and offer up a few tidbits on the back story of the band or recording.  So with that being said, I decided to take the easy lazy route for my post about the classic album, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.   Instead of conjuring any new thoughts or insights about the LP, I decided to just cut and paste an email I sent to a friend prior to handing over a copy of the album to her.  Enjoy!

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Stacy1

Caroline will hand you over a CD I burned today that I feel you will enjoy.  If you already own a copy, you do not have to read any further and feel free to give it to Olivia, because she might dig it.  Below are some details about the album.

The Artist: Neutral Milk Hotel 

The Album: In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

Release date: February 10, 1998 (Another 90’s gem-Further proof that the 90’s was the best decade for music)

Type: Indie lo-fi pop

Label: Merge, Domino

Track Listing:

No.

Title

Length

1.

“The King of Carrot Flowers Pt. One”  

2:00

2.

“The King of Carrot Flowers Pts. Two & Three”

3:06

3.

“In the Aeroplane Over the Sea”  

3:22

4.

“Two-Headed Boy”  

4:26

5.

“The Fool” (Spillane)

1:53

6.

Holland, 1945”  

3:15

7.

“Communist Daughter”  

1:57

8.

“Oh Comely”  

8:18

9.

“Ghost”  

4:08

10.

Untitled  

2:16

11.

“Two-Headed Boy Pt. Two”  

5:13

Total Time: 39:51

Check out these tracks first:2

Tracks 1, 2, 3, 4 & 6

If you are not instantly pushing repeat or at least intrigued after listening to tracks 1 & 2, then it might not be for you.  The album, like most great albums, is meant to be listened as a whole, but the five tracks mentioned above are true gems.

Notes:

  • The album is influenced by the Anne Frank book The Diary of a Young Girl. Jeff Mangum, principal songwriter, lead singer, and all around creative force behind NMH, was deeply saddened and moved by the book.  He went into a Denver studio with band mates and recorded the album.  He has not written or recorded any new material with NMH3 since.
  • Radiohead’s Tom Yorke had to be listening to this album at some point during the recording of Kid A. Radiohead’s use of horn arrangements in the final minutes of the song “National Anthem,” is similar to what is heard throughout In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. The sound of this album is unique to say the least, with a large array of instruments4; many critics penned the album highly innovative.
  • Not equipped with any vocal range whatsoever, Mangum still goes for it, emphasizing a lyric by reaching well beyond his limits, straining his voice to a crackle.  The emotion behind the lyrics and singing is front and center, displayed with genuine honesty.  Sometimes that’s all we can ask from the artist.  There is a beauty in the imperfection of his voice that makes the songs endearing.  I would probably say with most imperfections, this rings true.
  • The album is a collaborative band effort but, to me, it sounds and feels more like a solo effort by Mangum.  Maybe it’s because everyone in America has read something about Anne Frank, and no one could do anything remotely creative compared to what Mangum did with the influence that came from reading The Diary of a Young Girl.
  • Due to the album’s subject nature and, quite possibly, the emotional state of Mangum, I have read from more than one critic that the album holds no cool stigma.  However, it’s still one of the best and uniquely rich albums of the 1990’s. 
  • If you ever wanted to know what a drunken Irish traveling circus tripping on acid sounds like than listen to the song “Untitled”.

 

Reviews and articles written about In the Aeroplane Over the Sea:

http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/5758-in-the-aeroplane-over-the-sea/

http://stereogum.com/8036/ten_years_of_in_the_aeroplane_over_the_sea/video/

http://www.allmusic.com/album/r334039

http://gloriousnoise.com/2008/transience_and_transcendence_1

 

Sample Lyrics:

Oh, Comely: “I know they buried her body with others/ her sister and mother and 500 families/ and will she remember me 50 years later/ I wished I could save her in some sort of time machine.”

In the Aeroplane Over the Sea: “What a beautiful face/I have found in this place/That is circling all round’ the sun/And when we meet on a cloud/I’ll be laughing out loud/I’ll be laughing with everyone I see/Can’t believe how strange it is to be anything at all”

Holland, 1945: “The only girl I’ve ever loved/Was born with roses in her eyes/But then 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/Now she’s a little boy in Spain/Playing pianos filled with flames/On empty rings around the sun/All sing to say my dream has come”

King of Carrot Flowers, Part 1: “And your mom would sink until she was no longer speaking/and dad would dream of all the different ways to die? /each one a little more than he could dare to try”

Goddamn that’s some good stuff….anyway, I hope you like it!  There is an underlying innocence captured on the album that might remind you of Mason…..at least it did with me.

Happy listening,

-Matt

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

  1. Stacy responded to my email a day later.  She wrote back that she liked it.  Enough for her to add this to her regular rotation?  Time will soon tell.
  2. I was always felt that this is an important part of the process; it gives them a little guidance, especially when entering a field of foreign sounds.
  3.  If you dig In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, be sure to check out NMH’s debut album, On Avery Island.  Very good as well.
  4. The sounds heard on the album were made from the following list of instruments:
  • Guitar
  • Organ
  • Bass
  • Drums
  • Floor Tom
  • Shortwave Radio
  • Singing Saw (I can’t picture this)
  • Banjo
  • Accordion
  • White Noise
  • Trumpet
  • Sax
  • Trombone
  • Flugelhorn
  • Euphonium (Not sure what the fuck this is)
  • Piano
  • Zanzithophone (Just Google this instrument for more information)
  • Uillean Pipes

 

 

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