There are some bands, like Sigur Ros, whose music inspires divine revelations and visions of open-air mountaintops; then there are albums like Neutral Milk Hotel’s wonderful In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, which deals with the grounded, the pure and dirty emotions of humanity, and the darkness and dimness of sadness. Or something like that. The point is that this album, while every bit as beautiful and dear to me, is the polar ideological opposite of something like Sigur Ros’s ( ).
The album’s structure and lyrics were inspired by the diaries of the famous Jewish girl Anne Frank, and the lines penned by Neutral Milk Hotel’s twisted-genius frontman Jeff Mangum invoke a series of surrealistic images: ashes scattered from titular aeroplanes, Frank discovering her own sexuality, wings sprouting from spines, and a plethora of other vignettes inked into my mind by Mangum’s haunting moans. His voice is untrained and at times quite dissonant, as are the soundscapes on songs like “King of Carrot Flowers Nos. 2-3,” but there’s something about the desperation in the music and the surreal sadness of the lyrics that brings a clawing pain into my chest, locks me inside myself with all my demons, and exposes ugly truths to me that I would never see any way. To listen to the album’s final song is to have my heart ripped out. It is to undergo a brutal form of therapy that’s very hard to dissect. The music may be hard or even unpleasant to listen to at first for the untrained ear, but the words and the delivery and the crashing passion of the instruments on songs like “Holland, 1945” never fail to leave me breathless and a little bit older. I highly recommend giving this band a try … here is the title song, for your listening pleasure: