Neutral Milk Hotel: In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

1998BarsukChamber Pop

Hands down the best indie rock album of all time. Although to call it rock is really selling it short, as it encompasses so much more. It’s a carnival set inside an evil sideshow set inside a Pentecostal freakout. I just thank god on a weekly basis that Jeff Magnum got this thing on tape and preserved it for all to hear with all its talk of notches in your spine and semen stained mountain tops and Anne Frank and two-headed boys and distorted craziness and antique instruments and vocals that always sound on the verge of hysteria. The first time I heard this thing it literally almost blew my head off. I couldn’t stop playing it; I wanted to envelop its complexity and amazingly catchy messiness. I could see many clawing their faces if forced to listen to this, but never has there been such an emotional hauntingly beautiful album filled with song after song of singing saw, trumpet, accordion, bagpipes and plucked brilliance. Even if the songs themselves weren’t as downright mind-blowing as they are, the layered production could be a study in perfection. I try to imagine Magnum sitting down and recording this and then looking, stunned, as the final result unfolded in front of him. He must have choked on his tongue. To be dropped into this one unawares might cause convulsions, so you may want to start with the softer stuff like The Decemberists or Beirut or even The Apples in Stereo and then work your way up to this, the pinnacle of achievement in the indie world. If you do get around to it and hear “Holland 1945” without wanting to absolutely rock until it hurts, you may want to check yourself for a pulse.