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. recommended


Comments (13) RSS

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I gave this a shot once upon a time. All I remember is that it sounded like ordinary basement-indie navelgazing and I COULD NOT FUCKING STAND the guy's voice. I spun it several times to give it a fair chance and see if the singing would become listenable, but nope. Nothing. Don't know what it is (not to be a killjoy, just wondering what I'm apparently missing here).

And yet this is the best-written and one of the funniest of these columns ever....
Posted by Phil T on January 25, 2013 at 11:39 AM · Report this
oh, and Anna's review is way over the top for music this ordinary...
Posted by Schmeng on January 24, 2013 at 5:27 AM · Report this
This music is boring and I like lots of music of many different styles.

But this stuff just seems like naieve music somehow, like the guy can't really play very well but if he records his voice without reverb it'll sound raw and emotional. But i just found it dull, sorry fangrls.

But hey, if you like it, go'head.
Posted by Schmeng on January 24, 2013 at 5:00 AM · Report this
Theodore Gorath 10
Actually got a chance to see him live last year, in an old church in Baltimore.

It was awesome, obviously.
Posted by Theodore Gorath on October 2, 2012 at 8:20 AM · Report this
More, I Say! 9
Perfectly put! Welcome to the club, Anna.
Posted by More, I Say! on October 1, 2012 at 1:35 PM · Report this
Best album to deliver pizzas to in Dutch Harbor Alaska hands down.
Posted by drift on October 1, 2012 at 1:06 PM · Report this
I, too, have no musical knowledge and end up listening to things because a partner has introduced me or I heard it on NPR. Neutral Milk Hotel came in to my life a few years ago and my reaction was pretty much just as yours- the cadence of that album and the lyrics and the horns and OMG EVERYTHING makes me just adore the whole album. Two Headed Boy makes me cry. Fuck it, the whole thing does. The first thing I learned on the Uke was 'Holland, 1945'- and if that songs doesn't engender ALL THE FEELINGS, then I have nothing to say to you. Nice article :D
Posted by RainCityGlasses on October 1, 2012 at 10:52 AM · Report this
bigrednelson 6
You made me weep.
Posted by bigrednelson on September 28, 2012 at 2:26 PM · Report this
bigrednelson 5
Such an eloquent description of the strength of music. "I get it now." Maybe it's all the Lucy I've been doing, but you caused me to weep. done.
Posted by bigrednelson on September 28, 2012 at 2:23 PM · Report this
--MC 4
Only three comments so far? Considering how much people love this album, I expected this thing to blow up with peoples' altar calls on how they discovered it, how they listened to it and it got them through bad breakups, et al.
Posted by --MC on September 28, 2012 at 7:28 AM · Report this
DeaconBlues 3
Posted by DeaconBlues on September 28, 2012 at 12:48 AM · Report this
OMG so much love for you, Anna! You are amazing!
Posted by augurgirl on September 27, 2012 at 5:09 PM · Report this
Don't say anything you negative jerks. Anna Minard is the best. The end.
Posted by mustachio on September 27, 2012 at 5:05 PM · Report this

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