I’m too cool for this album: “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” by Neutral Milk Hotel

Before this year, the closest I came to listening to a Neutral Milk Hotel song was the Apples in Stereo’s cover of “King of Carrot Flowers Pt. Three” (which, after learning that Neutral Milk Hotel and the Apples in Stereo shared band members, is not surprising). Then I heard “Holland, 1945” for the first time at the start of 2023 and immediately started to cry, looking out the window at night, and the moment seemed perfect.

This is going to be a hard post to write, because the reaction I’ve had to listening to this entire album is unlike any reaction I’ve ever had to an album. I’m crying right now writing this post, so yeah, you can see this album had an effect on me.

This album dropped in February 1998 when I was 17 years old and a junior in high school. Other important events from 1998 in my personal life: I dated my first boyfriend for a few short months in the spring, and I taught myself HTML and CSS after learning that you didn’t have to be a super genius with a college degree to create a website on the internet.

What was I listening to at 17? Britpop. Lots and lots of Britpop. I was heavily into both Blur and Oasis and spent the summer in my basement listening to a little song called “Star Shaped” that miiiight have become more important to me in just a couple years. Basically, no way would 17 year old me be interested in Neutral Milk Hotel, at all. No. Serious. Way.

All right, let’s get to the album review, which I anticipate will be massively disjointed and full of all the feels.

The album starts with King of Carrot Flowers Part 1 as one song and parts 2 and 3 as the second song. Not sure why all the songs weren’t either part of the same song or all different songs, but whatever! Part 1 immediately set me off and I cried all the way through parts 2 and 3. I loved hearing the original version of the Apples in Stereo cover I listened to so many times back in the late 00s!

However, part 1 was my favorite mainly for the reaction I had to it. I just… I’m trying to figure out the words to say and why it hit me so hard. I don’t know if I can, which makes writing a blog post about it really difficult! It just hit me in a way that felt right, and this is not the only song that made me feel this way.

“In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” was only okay. It wasn’t bad, but I didn’t have the same sort of visceral reaction to it that I did for the first 3 songs on the album. I’ve seen this song on a million “Essential Indie” playlists so this tells me this was one of the more popular songs on the album, and it has that kind of universal indie sound that puts it on these kinds of lists. Teh song isn’t bad, but it’s not my favorite.

Same with the two different “Two Headed Boy” versions on the album—the first version is fine and I apprecated its ‘from the heart’-ness, and I liked Part 2 as the closer to the album, but they didn’t hit me quite the same. The emotion in these two songs, though, I felt in my own way.

Next up is The Fool, a mournful instrumental that I sort of dug, mainly because I lke a good instrumental to break things up a little. I do dig a song that sounds a little like a funeral death march, especially in an album that’s already giving me all the feels!

Of course, though, this song is followed by Holland, 1945, the song I talked about at the beginning that made me cry the very first time I heard it (and not going to lie, nearly EVERY other time I’ve heard it) and it’s just, well, again, beyond words. (This is why this blog post is hard to write!) Is it the sound, the feeling, the lyrics? Everything? I definitely wouldn’t have felt this way if I had heard the song at 17. Maybe I would have felt this way at, say, 24 or 15, but not at 17. Maybe I wasn’t ready until the age of 42, honestly.

I don’t remember much about Communist Daughter, the next song, but it wasn’t bad. It fit well with the album, but I didn’t feel any particular way after listening to it. I wouldn’t skip this song when listening to the entire album, but I wouldn’t look forward to hearing this song, either. It’s just okay.

Then we get to The One Song I Don’t Like on the Album (tm). Oh, Comely, this is you on this album! 8 minutes long, vocals that border on the whiny side, and an overly repetitve and slow verse—nope, this song isn’t for me. I listened to it once and that was enough!

Now we’re nearing the end of the album, and Ghost? LOVE. Another song that started the waterworks for me! It hit me the same way that King of Carrot Flowers 1 and Holland 1945 did, so I appreciated that this album hit me in the feels SO MANY different times. [untitled], another instrumental, perfectly followed Ghost, and the album ended with Two Headed Boy Part 2. Again, good song that I won’t ever listen on its own, but it ended the album in a quiet way. I like quiet endings to albums, especially albums I love this much.

Overall? I really, really, REALLY liked this album. With the exception of Comely, I will be listening to this album over and over and this is another album I’d buy on vinyl if I had a record player. I don’t know if any other album has made me feel as many things as this album has, which is surprising becsue I’ve istned to a lot of albums in my 42 years and have felt a lot of things. Either way, this one’s one of my top feelings albums now!