Welcome back to Retrospectives! This week we are tackling Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea and I can hear you already; “This Album is such a cliche, are you a pleb or something?” and the answer is a resounding yes. This album being in this series is a cliche but the fact of the matter is ITAOTS is one of those albums that had a profound impact on me and how I have changed my music tastes.
It was now early 2013 and the end of the tunnel that was our schooling finally had some light shining out from it. I had firmly stuck myself in place and was now just waiting out the clock, much like Jose would do at Chelsea. It was in a Chemistry class where one of my best friends and I would talk about more obscure music, as we have both garnered somewhat of a reputation of listening to more obscure and strange music. Naturally he was way out in front of me as I was not listening to anything really strange at the time and was still developing my personal music tastes.
In one of these classes, he suggested that I should listen to In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, a supposed ‘classic’ album according to 4chan, a site he frequently browsed. As a joke, I said I would listen to it and probably hate it and we made a bet right there and then (coincidentally in the exact same seats as we made the bet one year earlier about Port Of Morrow charting at #1) and that night I decided to go home and listen to it.
After procrastinating for a few hours that night, I finally decided to listen to this album that apparently was one of the greatest of all time. For whatever reason it was, I decided to actually give this a full listen without distraction. So I flicked off the lights, closed the curtains and just lay on my bed, listening to this album.
It was a unique experience and something that made it memorable. I have only done that once since, when I listened to Carrie & Lowell again late last year, but this first experience was something almost magical. The sounds took me away and transported me through the story of the album unlike anything else I have heard. After the first listen was finished, I sat up on my bed and just remained there for what seems like forever, just processing what I had heard.
The next day and the following weeks would be me talking up this album as if I was the first person to have ever heard music. I remember one particular day where I was driving to school and my father who was making sure I didn’t kill us (As I was still on my Learner’s at the time) remarked that Jeff Mangum sounds like ‘he has a permanent nosebleed’ and this has stuck with me to this day, if not for anything else but the sheer hilarity of the sentence.
In The Aeroplane Over The Sea is one of those albums that I would consider one of the greatest of all time as it is amazing across all levels. While there are some flaws – Oh Comely is a little too long and drawn out for my tastes – it is as close as you can get to a perfect album. It is one of those albums that once started I must listen to until the finish and that is a very rare case for someone who has as little of an attention span as I do.
I know that most of this sounds like your standard hipster cliche, but for me it was all legitimate. ITAOTS was a game-changer for me, as it pushed me to go out and find even more obscure artists and music that tell a story and most importantly it made me focus on the lyrics more and how they are conveyed, something I still am getting used to some three years later.
Join us next week as we look at Boy & Bear’s Harlequin Dream.