Neutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane Over the Sea: #725 of best 1,000 albums ever!

Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

Why is Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea on my best 1,000 albums ever list?

Highly unique yet strangely comforting? Just ask the king of the carrot flowers.

What does Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea mean to me? What does it make me feel? Why is it exciting or compelling?

I could spend many an epoch trying to describe this album and not come close to Jason Ankeny’s description in All Music:

Perhaps best likened to a marching band on an acid trip, Neutral Milk Hotel’s second album is another quixotic sonic parade; lo-fi yet lush, impenetrable yet wholly accessible, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is either the work of a genius or an utter crackpot, with the truth probably falling somewhere in between.

The first track, “King of Carrot Flowers Pt. 1” (the second track follows up with “King of Carrot Flowers Pts. 2 & 3,” so it’s a an epic trilogy of sorts over the course of some five minutes and change), kicks off with a jangly acoustic chord and mellow emotive vocals from Jeff Mangum. It then evolves into almost like a sea shanty or dirge vibe thanks to an accordion. It’s the kind of song and album that is odd while not being off putting in the slightest, and highly unique yet strangely comforting at the same time.

“Holland, 1945” is probably my favorite song on In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. It’s got an exciting vibe to it, kind of a boot stomping energy that eventually meshes with Mariachi-type horns. I’ll admit I don’t know what the song is about, and in fact the lyrics are pretty opaque if not impenetrable throughout the album.

The song title perhaps suggests that it’s something about Holland at the end of World War II, of course. And that reminds me that I re-watched Band of Brothers recently (as I do every 18-24 months), the HBO miniseries that follows a company of American paratroopers (E or Easy Company, from the 506th Infantry Regiment) from training through the D-Day invasion and all the way through the end of the war*. It’s based on the compelling history book by Stephen E. Ambrose, and it’s one of the best things ever produced for television.

* Also see: the best 100 TV shows ever!

The fourth episode, “Replacements,” focuses on Easy Company’s participation in Operation Market Garden, an audacious and ultimately unsuccessful plan that involved dropping paratroopers behind enemy lines in Nazi-occupied Holland to help hasten the end of the war.  

One of its more fascinating scenes involves the American forces entering a Dutch town, where the local populace believes that they have been liberated and the war for them is effectively over. The locals burst out in thronged masses, celebrating wildly… only to shortly after return to being under siege from the Germans once again.

Anyway, there’s something about In the Aeroplane Over the Sea that puts me in the mood of circuitous routes in the getting from here to there.

The title track, “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea,” begins as a straight-ahead singer-songwriter style song with just acoustic guitar and vocals, and a pretty one at that. Then we get… a saw as instrument, I believe, and some other oddball instrumentation and musical effects. It’s all in good, strange fun. Or at least I think.

Some stats & info about Neutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

  • What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Rock Music, Pop Music, Alternative Pop, Indie Rock, Neo-Psychedelia
  • Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – #376
  • All Music’s rating5 out of 5 stars
  • When was In the Aeroplane Over the Sea released? 1998
  • My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #725 out of 1,000

Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea on Spotify

What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?

Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.

But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.