Never Heard of 'Em
Never Heard of 'Em: Neutral Milk Hotel
Anna Minard claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we force her to listen to random records by artists considered to be important by music nerds.
In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
Listening to this album was weird because I'd heard it before. But not like I heard it a while ago and didn't listen carefully. I've heard it because I hang out with a lot of people who make music, and it turns out they all adore Aeroplane. For the last six months or so, I've heard these songs played and sung by friends—on guitars and a cappella, alone and in two-part and three-part harmony, in public and in my living room and in basements. It's a musical currency that they've all been loving and trading for a decade, and I only just found out.
Recently, I was on a long road trip, listening to music for endless meandering highway hours, and I came across Aeroplane on a beat-up old iPod. On a whim, I pressed play. (Actually, first I asked permission, and the driver asked me if I was sure—I could listen to it for the first time only once, and was I ready for that to be now? I was.) Outside were miles of pointy trees and bluish-tinted mountains and some body of water I don't remember. It was evening, so the light slanted sideways in pale yellow sheets. It was the end of a trip back from somewhere dusty and hot and so dry we got nosebleeds, and we were marveling at the slow and welcome embrace of this damp, lush, fecund ghost world that is home.
Even with all the affection I had already for these songs, and the awe bestowed on them by my friends, I felt unwarned, unprepared for the way it got inside me. It felt both private and universal, just for me and also uniting me with everyone I've ever known. Like meeting your time-traveling self from the future at the same moment you meet the person you'll love forever, like looking down on yourself through a telescope—no, a telescopic kaleidoscope, from miles in the air. The words I knew, but the voice I didn't. And no one told me there would be HORNS! I die for horns.
I felt vulnerable, flayed open, transparent. When we got to "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea," I had to put on sunglasses and casually look out the window so the driver wouldn't see me cry and cry. "And one day we will die/And our ashes will fly from the aeroplane over the sea/But for now we are young/Let us lay in the sun/And count every beautiful thing we can see" completely undoes me. And oh, "Communist Daughter," what are you made of?
Now I've been listening to it all week, its flames and ashes, fingers and spines, mountains and gardens, screams and whispers. I get it now. I get it.
I give this a "no, no, I just got something in my heart, I mean MY EYE" out of 10.