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In the Aeroplane over the Sea

588 customer reviews

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Audio CD, February 10, 1998
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Led by Jeff Magnum, In the Aeroplane over the Sea finds the Neutral Milk Hotel assemblage loosely performing a series of narratives backed by folksy acoustic guitar. But from that springboard, a quiver of instruments (horns, organs, accordions, saws, banjo, zanzithophone, etc.) are layered into a sometimes rootsy, sometimes lo-fi, and often psychedelic mix. Contrary to most pop experimentalists, NMH songs stretch way past the two-minute mark: "Two Headed Boy" transforms from a Guided by Voices-ish romp into a New Orleans big band funeral march, "The Fool" is as catchy as anything Poi Dog Pondering ever produced, and "Holland" builds up to a crescendo of saw, Uillean pipes, a chorus of voices, and fuzzed-out guitar. Simply irresistible. --Jason Verlinde
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (February 10, 1998)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Merge Records
  • ASIN: B0000019PA
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (588 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,272 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

558 of 604 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 16, 2002
Format: Audio CD
Let's pretend, for a moment, that you're listening to Aeroplane for the first time, having heard nothing at all from this alternately praised and despised album. The first thing to notice is the faintly catchy acoustic strumming of "King of Carrot Flowers, part 1". In bursts a slightly nasal voice that was never intended to sing, an odd accompanying wind or brass instrument that strangely matches it, and nonsensical lyrics reminiscent of Syd Barrett but with more sex. Just when you're getting used to this little piece of quirk, Part 2 begins, and a lo-fi electric guitar begins arpeggiating uncertainly. The voice is back, and this time it's nigh-excruciating as singer Jeff Mangum belts out "IIILooooooovveYYOOOOOOOOOUUUUJEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESUSCHRIIIIIIISSSSTT" in a register far above his capacity. At this point, the listener either runs screaming, never to touch the album again, or (and this is the path you follow) s/he "gets the joke" and bursts into fits of laughter; Mangum sure has balls. Aeroplane gets mentally filed into the "Novelty" section.
No sooner do you dismiss this act as a good joke than Neutral Milk Hotel shatters the conception by bursting into the dreadfully catchy and piledriving near-punk of Part 3. As a plethora of sounds and instruments clank and whirr along, the band reveals its ace in the hole, a brass band that brings even more of a mad, carnivalesque tenor to the song. Maybe this band can rock after all, you think, however weirdly. Could they possibly be _serious_?
The final piece to the puzzle comes with the next two songs. The affecting (and affected) "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" is quite possibly the finest piece of music ever recorded involving a musical saw(three-part saw harmonies, no less!
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89 of 95 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 30, 1999
Format: Audio CD
I read a CMJ review of this album sometime last year; I vaguely remembered it, and stored the name in the back of my head. Then a few months later, I saw it listed in about a million top 10 lists for 1998. Then one day I bought it on a whim, having never heard it (something I never do). I guess luck was with me that day.
Though it's futile to describe the music on this record, I'll try. It's an insane mix of distorted bass, horns, saws, theremins, and other strange sounding instruments and a guy who's got one of the most honest voices you'll ever hear. The pace alternates between mostly acoustic ballads (something i usually despise) and caffinated garage rockers. Mind you it all sounds like it was recorded in 1935. It's literally like nothing I've ever heard; and i'm mostly into punk, so this is something i never would have listened to given the description. but hell, good music is good music, and this is some of the best you're likely to find.
Now many people say lead singer/musical genius Jeff Magnum's voice is "unlistenable." It may not be polished, but how many singers out there take vocal lessons? If they did, everyone would sound like Boyz II Men. This man has a voice that makes it sound like he means what he is saying, and it may be an acquired taste, but by no means unlistenable.
This disc is like a punch in the stomach (a good punch); you can feel what Jeff is saying. And that's something that so few musicians are able to do. I own over 500 cds; I've heard every type of music imaginable; and this is right near the top of them all. Believe the hype, the good press, because this album is absolutely amazing.
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162 of 178 people found the following review helpful By Ray Radlein on July 31, 2004
Format: Audio CD
I had to buy a second copy of this CD.

One day, as I was leaving work, my original copy of the CD broke open its jewel case and leapt forth in a daring and quixotic bid for freedom which was cut tragically short when it skidded to a stop, butter-side down, on the rough pavement of the parking lot.

In retrospect, given the nature of this CD, I was not surprised that it had made the attempt; indeed, the only surprise is that it did not succeed, and rise up into the distance to sail the endless skies forever.
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52 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Zach Ralston ( on August 30, 1998
Format: Audio CD
Relocating to Athens, Ga, the Elephant 6 member Neutral Milk Hotel (fronted by Louisiana prodigy Jeff Mangum) has found the perfect outlet for their powerful brand of fuzzbox power-folk. Following up their debut "On Avery Island," "Aeroplane" is a masterpiece of songwriting, combining a host of bizarre instruments (including the saw) and distorted blasts of electric guitar with sugary-sweet pop melodies and transcendental lyrics that are so abstract they make Michael Stipe look coherent. Mangum's charmingly off-key crooning matches the earnest soul-searching belted out by acoustic guitar in such numbers as "Two Headed Boy" and "Communist Daughter." And for pure rock ecstasy, "Holland, 1945" may be the most exciting burst of sonic orgasma produced in years.
It's rare that a lyricist can emote such a range of feelings on a 35-minute record with the clarity and energy Mangum can. "Holland" is about Anne Frank, and lines like "And 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" contrast sharply with the sunny melody of the guitar.
Mangum's unconventional views on romance and sex bleed into ambiguous gendering and dream-like love affairs. Consider the phrases "This is the room one afternoon I knew I would love you and from above you how I sank into your soul" and "Your dad would throw the garbage all across the floor as we would lay and learn what each other's bodies were for." Mangum hits on details that poingnantly underscore his overall message.
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