Neutral Milk Hotel

Neutral Milk Hotel: In the Aeroplane Over the Sea Review

Neutral Milk Hotel is one of the most influential indie rock bands of the 1990s and their magnum opus In the Aeroplane Over the Sea exemplifies this. Jeff Mangum, front man and lead guitarist of the band, opts out of intricate guitar styles in favor of simpler acoustic chord progressions. However, this highlights the brilliance behind this band and album; the lyricism. Mangum’s songwriting is deeply personal yet widely resonant. Lyrics such as “how strange it is to be anything at all” inspire existential musings while lines such as “we would lay and learn what each other’s bodies were for” foster nostalgic images of adolescence. The influences on this album are difficult to determine because of the abundance of them. The use of reversing horns in the track “Holland, 1945” is reminiscent of the psychedelic rock movement of the 1960’s, but the song “Communist Daughter” utilizes electronic sounds in an ambient Radiohead-esque style. In addition, eclectic and interesting instruments are used throughout including bag pipes on the track titled “[untitled].” However, while the band’s influences are difficult to source, their influence on the indie music scene in the 21st century is immense. Modern indie acts including The Decemberists and Bon Iver cite the band as a major influence. The use of non-traditional instruments and narratives by Colin Meloy is heavily reminiscent of Mangum’s style, and Justin Vernon’s melancholy vocals accompanied by acoustic guitar has a tonal similarity to tracks such as “Two-Headed Boy Pt. 2.” In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is a masterpiece and essential indie-rock listening.