In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
Jeff Mangum's second album as Neutral Milk Hotel is a masterpiece. Inspired by a reading of the Anne Frank story, and with the help from the Elephant Six recording collective (Apples in Stereo and Olivia Tremor Control), In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is a personal meditation on the rich joys of life and the tragedy of death. Triumphantly martial brass arrangements, warbly musical saw, and sweet piano augment the rough buzz of Mangum's basic acoustic guitar strum, but it's his glorious, wailing voice that soars over all of it as the album progresses seamlessly from big rock songs ("Holland, 1945," "Ghost") and achingly earnest mid-tempo numbers ("King of Carrot Flowers Part 1") to a brass-led dirge ("The Fool") reminiscent of the jazz funeral that march through the streets of Mangum's native Louisiana. To hear this album once is to love it forever.