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Until I find myself again, agaaain, o-o-o-o-ooh.
July 9, 2011 2:12 PM   Subscribe

Various Neutral Milk Hotel Covers. They'll probably make you want to listen to "Aeroplane" again. Some with better sound quality than others. Not all are all that great but there are some neat gems in there. Enjoy!
posted by fantodstic (41 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Dresden Dolls also have done Two-Headed Boy on many occasions. Amanda also is responsible for With The Needle That Sings In Her Heart, a Neutral Milk Hotel musical that she did with the drama department from the high school she attended.

Oh, and Jeff Mangum is apparently touring again.
posted by King Bee at 2:45 PM on July 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Love the idea if not the "sorry, can't skip tracks" balderdash.
posted by FelliniBlank at 2:48 PM on July 9, 2011


Some songs by some artists can be cast in a new light by a well-considered or enthusiastic cover version. But in the fifteen years I've been aware of them, I really haven't heard a cover of a Neutral Milk Hotel's song that gets even half-way to the power of the original. The voice, the instrumentation and the words are so tightly bound together that it's unlikely that any effort to cover them will really pay off.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:54 PM on July 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is one of the very very few albums I can remember the first time I listened to it. I was sitting on bed in a dorm room in NYC, next to a girl I was in love with at the time. The music was just so melancholy and good, and even though there was this awkwardness to the whole "Hey let's listen to some sad music together," I didn't care. Listening to the covers didn't really do anything for me, but when I loaded "Oh Comely" on Youtube, I can see out of that dorm window in the middle of March.
posted by QuarterlyProphet at 2:57 PM on July 9, 2011 [11 favorites]


*Nostalgia from people under the age of 30 is the worst sort of nostalgia, sorry.
posted by QuarterlyProphet at 2:58 PM on July 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I agree with le morte and QuarterlyProphet - the fact that these songs are apparently so had to cover just demonstrates how weird and difficult they are, and makes it that much more impressive that Jeff Magnum could make them into an album with such staying power.

I can't really listen to this album anymore because the nostalgia is too much but I think if I heard it now for the first time I would still like it.
posted by mai at 3:01 PM on July 9, 2011


One of the first times I ran into a celebrity was also the first time I heard of this band. Andre 3000 was sitting outside of the 40 watt club in Athens, GA (with his mother, no less). Everyone was ignoring him like you're supposed to do, but I was an ignorant sophomore and started a conversation. It wasn't long, but I did get to ask him what he'd been listening to lately. When he said "Neutral Milk Hotel', I thought he was fucking with me, but I revved up Napster when I got back to the dorm and sure enough, there it was. At the time, it was barely accessible because it was so raw, but it kind of became the soundtrack of my next several months.

Thanks for the post.
posted by robstercraw at 3:29 PM on July 9, 2011 [9 favorites]


QuarterlyProphet, I too am a person too young to justifiably feel nostalgic who's filled with extraordinary nostalgia by Neutral Milk Hotel. I don't really listen to NMC any more, and my friends long since decided that it's trite and meaningless. But every once in awhile they play a track of it at the bar I frequent, and I must say, it catches me off guard how it elicits a whole feeling of where my life was 10 years ago. Like you said the prevailing mood of the music is melancholy, which naturally marries it with nostalgia I'd say.
posted by arboles at 3:52 PM on July 9, 2011


I like how most NMH fans have these little stories about listening to Aeroplane and the memories it brings back. My favorite listen to that album happened during a drive to San Francisco with a good friend who remarked teary how the last song (Two-Headed Boy pt. 2) was just so beautiful and we played it like five times in a row and when it ended we didnt say anything else for half an hour.
posted by fantodstic at 3:53 PM on July 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


My first time hearing NMH was at a party where a core of about ten people had broken off and were trying to learn to play the entire Aeroplane album. I realized that something was happening there, and got very sucked into it myself. It's a truly fantastic piece of work, and it really kicked off what was the whole indie music scene in first half of the 2000's.

I remember listening to the album on repeat for like a month, over the protests of a girl I was seeing who was a bit off-put by the whole 'fingers through the notches of your spine' thing. There are still a bunch of NMH bootlegs that I cover at shows from time to time, my favourite being 'oh sister' from the Aquarius bootleg.
posted by kaibutsu at 4:05 PM on July 9, 2011


Rose Wallace Goldaline just moves her mouth over anything
Fleshy free and flowering with oranges out in the open
But don't you waste your sins again
She don't need you or won't fuck your friends
And you, you're American, so important boiling over
To prove that she must still exist
She moves herself about her fist
And never ever gave a shit
About all those words you're wasting again
Some pretty bright and bubbly wondrous dream
You'd like to kill and claim
And claim her as your own
But don't you worry
All those dainty and dirty emotions
Just go away and fade out on their own

Sister, now that we're grieving
Our fingers will falter
Our lungs will be leaking
All over each other and without even speaking
We'll know that it's over and smile and go greeting
Whatever comes next
I should add that I don't play this cover quite as much anymore.... Somehow those dainty and dirty feelings really did just fade away, though at the time they did feel so timeless and so permanent. and yet...
posted by kaibutsu at 4:09 PM on July 9, 2011


> Oh, and Jeff Mangum is apparently touring again.

And, damn, if everything isn't sold out. My filters have failed me!
posted by scruss at 4:18 PM on July 9, 2011


Alright. I'm sick of pretending. I've got special memories about listening to In the Aeroplane over the Sea, alright. It was a miserable, eleven-hour van ride from Asheville to Tampa during which the driver would permit no other music to be played. Jeff Magnum sounds like a goddamn billy-goat, and those songs can only possibly be improved by having someone, anyone else sing them1. That voice still conjures in me distinct if decade-old feelings of motion sickness and scarcely-contained rage.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad, in a way, that the album got made. Moody, teenaged straight dudes need to listen to something. It should, however, be sold with some kind of warning to straight girls and gay guys alerting them to the fact that pretending to like Neutral Milk Hotel will not get you any kind of laid you're going to look back on with fondness.

---
1 Okay, some of these covers are, in fact, appreciably worse.

posted by wreckingball at 4:38 PM on July 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Amanda also is responsible for With The Needle That Sings In Her Heart, a Neutral Milk Hotel musical that she did with the drama department from the high school she attended.

I attended one of the performances--I know a guy whose son was an actor in it. The songs were all competently performed, but most of them didn't hit me the same way the album songs did. But I found their performance of "Communist Daughter" unforgettable. They had the Jeff Mangum character slowly making his way down a staircase on one side of the stage, strumming his guitar and singing. On the other side, the Anne Frank character was descending a parallel staircase, talking about how she hoped to see mundane beautiful things again, like clouds in the blue sky and seagulls. The juxtaposition of such a gentle-sounding song and the impossible hopes of a girl who wanted to live normally was rending.
posted by A dead Quaker at 4:38 PM on July 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Moody, teenaged straight dudes need to listen to something.

What? Pink Floyd The Wall isn't good enough for YOUR generation? It certainly was good enough for MINE. :P
posted by hippybear at 4:57 PM on July 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Moody, teenaged straight dudes need to listen to something.

I thought that was what Radiohead was for.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:09 PM on July 9, 2011


The first time I heard this album was a year after my dad died. A friend of mine had given me a gift certificate to Newbury Comics, and the album had been prominently displayed on an endcap. I'd missed all the hype surrounding the album, but something about the sleeve art short-circuited my brain.

I'd celebrated my 20th birthday in a funeral parlor at my dad's wake, trying to avoid looking at this embalmed person who had once been my dad. To say that I still felt a huge sense of loss about his passing would be a tremendous understatement.

When I got home, I mindlessly threw the vinyl on the turntable and picked up a book or something. The book quickly got discarded, and I lay on the floor in front of the speakers, absorbing this music. The imagery could at times be squicky, and his voice took some getting used to, but amidst all the grotesquerie was a kind of strange hope.

When the record was done, I got up and flipped it and listened to it again.

Jeff's music sustained me through the following few months as I struggled to get my life together. I ended up going to see NMH at the Middle East in late July, and made him a cake to thank him for making music that kept me company during one of the hardest points in my life.
posted by pxe2000 at 5:11 PM on July 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


UbuRoivas: "I thought that was what Radiohead was for"

I work with someone who hates Radiohead. She likes Creep and that's it.

I find it disgusting. Her, not Radiohead or Creep. I love both of those. Because, seriously, does it get much better than OK Computer?
posted by theichibun at 5:13 PM on July 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Amanda also is responsible for With The Needle That Sings In Her Heart, a Neutral Milk Hotel musical that she did with the drama department from the high school she attended.

[previously]


On preview: OK Computer's alright, but it's no In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:21 PM on July 9, 2011


I prefer Amnesiac and On Avery Island. By lots.
posted by special agent conrad uno at 5:39 PM on July 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I try to take what people say at face value, but it's really hard to see someone claim they prefer On Avery Island to Aeroplane and not feel like they're just being contrarian. Not that it's not a fine album, but...
posted by valrus at 5:55 PM on July 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh, and robstercraw, I loved your story.
posted by valrus at 5:56 PM on July 9, 2011


I listened to Aeroplane recently while driving home from pub trivia with my mother. She'd never heard the album before...

We heard that an old family friend had passed right before we left the bar and I decided to put that album on. I lost it during Oh Comely...

This album will always be a top 5 for me. Always.
posted by schyler523 at 6:34 PM on July 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Great covers of NMH can absolutely be done. Here are a few I like:

In the Aeroplane Over the Sea - Melissa Mesko and Brian Mesko
Two-Headed Boy - The Swell Season
Ghost - A.J. Roach
In the Aeroplane over the Sea - Rena Valiunas

None of them are perfect in any sense, but they all (aside from the Swell Season one maybe) add something to the original, or change something to make it their own. There is so much more that can be done with those songs, and I wish more musicians would dare to experiment and try. Everyone in NMH were and are only human.

And then there are the covers from this youtube account. To me, whatever it is that makes me love Aeroplane, it is there in them too. I really would love to know who the people behind the covers are, because it's likely I would love their own music too. Never thought to send them a message to ask. Maybe I should.

Ghost
Holland, 1945
Two-Headed Boy Part Two
In the Aeroplane over the Sea

I was just watching that last video, and something got me and I started crying. Which was the first time I cried from a cover of Aeroplane, and I was laughing about that, and crying at the same time.
posted by catchingsignals at 7:10 PM on July 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


I was living in Athens when that came out. Unbeknownst to me that band had settled down the road from me! I was a teenager, I didn't know anything, but I was already sneaking into bars and venues. So I saw them play live. In fact, the first time I ever heard their music was live - the trumpet, the saw, the Uilleann pipes (oh god). It was a total accident at Athfest '99, people there clearly knew about them (judging by how the half-filled house was suddenly near bursting, and by the strangely piqued way they were shoegazing) but all I knew was that they were a local band. I'll never forget it or fully recover from that encounter. A part of me will always be in that room, jumping in time.

Now, though, I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. I got into science-y higher ed and stopped going to shows, but I was also around Athens later on, enough to see how worn down the elephant six crowd had become, how the drugs and pursuit of music had consumed lives, perhaps not in worthwhile ways, and I could only feel fortunate that I had not been pulled in any deeper, in those days when I was so heavily under the spell. (The story of their drummer kind of haunts me.) But when I was nineteen year old, Neutral Milk Hotel was...just the best kind of music imaginable. Like the culmination of world history! :) I had no idea at the time just how amazing it was that they managed to pull it together and keep it together, at least for awhile.

When I found Teen Dream last year, besides being utterly in love with the music, I was beside myself because it had been so long since I had encountered something that made me want to have faith in it all again...youth culture, rough American music, feelings that exist on a deeper moral plane, that sort of thing.

Anyways...just another NMH story...
posted by friendlymilkman at 7:47 PM on July 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


my friends long since decided that it's trite and meaningless

WHAT
posted by penduluum at 8:18 PM on July 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


A demographic slice of America has played the album's eponymous track as the first dance at their wedding. That it so happens to be in three in no way diminishes the emotional resonance of that selection.

I guess I'll go listen to this compilation now.
posted by Prince_of_Cups at 9:16 PM on July 9, 2011


What? Pink Floyd The Wall isn't good enough for YOUR generation? It certainly was good enough for MINE. :P

I grew up on The Wall, but I rate In The Aeroplane slightly higher, though I didn't start listening to it until I was 18. I heard Amanda Palmer do her cover live. It's ok but it's not a patch on the original.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:25 PM on July 9, 2011


I listened to only In The Aeroplane on the 24 hour flight from New York to Sydney. A bit on the nose but still perfect. I had to do some poetry the day of the last shuttle disaster and I read a bit of the title track before my poem.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:28 PM on July 9, 2011


Nostalgia from people under the age of 30 is the worst sort of nostalgia, sorry.

North end of *GASP* the thirties here, and you know what... as long as your nostalgia doesn't start a genre that blasts equivalent of the Eagles, Journey, Kansas, Boston and the same five damn Led Zepplin and Lynyrd Skynyrd songs over and over again on FM radio, it's cool with me.

Baby boomers have so much more to answer for in the field of excessive pointless nostalgia that as far as I care, you and yours can take your Radiohead, your NMH, your grunge, your punk, your new wave, your electronica, your west coast/east coast, your house/club/dub/deep/whatever and even the whole excessive fringes of the Madchester scene and dance in your bedroom with the volume up and have fun and I'll give you no problems whatsoever.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 9:30 PM on July 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I always wanted to see an action scene set to "King Of Carrot Flowers Part Three". The first bit would just be large men in dark clothes with serious looking weapons walking slowly through an abandoned urban area and getting into position with an air of grim inevitability. As the horns come in they spot each other and start looking for cover and assessing plans. On the cymbal crash that precedes "Oh and over" everyone starts shooting, and it's two minutes of mutual slaughter from there on out.

I don't know why, it's just what comes into my mind when I hear this song, buildup, tension breaking, and a frenzied conclusion.
posted by Grimgrin at 9:38 PM on July 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I quite like the Matt Pond PA cover.
posted by maryr at 10:00 PM on July 9, 2011



North end of *GASP* the thirties here, and you know what... as long as your nostalgia doesn't start a genre that blasts equivalent of the Eagles, Journey, Kansas, Boston and the same five damn Led Zepplin and Lynyrd Skynyrd songs over and over again on FM radio, it's cool with me.


I'm 25 and I'm nostalgic for being young and listening to classic rock, oldies, and doo-wop. I love NMH, but without those Boomers my childhood would have been much poorer.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 1:51 AM on July 10, 2011


I hate the fucking Eagles, man.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 3:06 AM on July 10, 2011


I'm just glad Jeff is touring again. I'm actually hopeful that I'll get to see him, since both Daniel Johnston and Jandek came out here. We live in an age of miracles.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:31 AM on July 10, 2011


I freaking love NMH.
posted by nile_red at 5:08 AM on July 10, 2011


In the Aeroplane over the Sea is one of my favorite albums of all time. I wasn't a teenager when I came to it, and I didn't like it so much at first but it really grew on me. Someone at my first job out of college gave it to me for a listen.

I didn't know what it was really about and made up a squirrely interpretation of the story jumping in three or more different time frames. one set in the far future on a generation space ship heading out to the end of the time of this universe. and the characters jumped into previous incarnations of people in earlier times.

One was from our present who loved a girl who lived before and after him. During world war 2 she died in the Holocaust. They met in the future and separated after half a life together, separating at the launch of the star ship. I am still trying to figure out who left and who stayed.

I think maybe they are both on the ship, but one only appears as memories. they are so vivid because a replay of the memories almost brings the other to life. They write to each other. the letters are alive. but the letters are not the same person.

On the ship the person is recorded, but somehow becomes reborn into different people. and through these rebirths these two somehow switch places. and start to become each other. the same.

Okay, so at work after I had listened to the album again and again, my coworker asked what I thought the album was about, and I told him all of that. Then he explained what it was really about.

I don't know, somehow to me it is a musical version of something by M J Harrison, like Light. And the girl, or the boy, are part of a space ship, that's what all the sockets and needles and things are about, and sometimes they know who they are, and sometimes they don't.
posted by bleary at 7:07 AM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know why, it's just what comes into my mind when I hear this song, buildup, tension breaking, and a frenzied conclusion.

To me it sounds exactly like what the start of a manic episode feels like. Imagine "Up and over we go!" said through metallic spittle, cold sweat and gritted teeth right before jumping into the deep end of an empty swimming pool and you've got it in a nice little nutshell.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 9:08 AM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I found this odd NMH "tribute" album of sorts five years ago. A bunch of Norwegian musicians/bands each did a some from Aeroplane. I wrote it up on my blog, but the links are dead so I put it on sendspace. Enjoy!

http://www.sendspace.com/file/rx1wlr

http://www.sandiegoserenade.com/2006/02/in_the_aeroplane_oslo_the_sea.html
posted by JoeGoblin at 11:17 AM on July 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


Thanks JoeGoblin!
posted by fantodstic at 1:57 PM on July 10, 2011


When I went through a breakup in my last year of college with this girl I was extraordinarily in love with and every little piece of every day became difficult and lonely, I remember shoving off classes and homework for a few hours one day to lie on our dorm's disgusting, unvacuumed carpet and listening to Aeroplane on loop. Things got better and worse after, but damn it if there isn't something about the album that gives you a sort of inner peace and strength and conviction, listening to Jeff Mangum pour our his heart into yours, feeling the tendrils of light creep into your soul through your ears.

Plus, I'm indebted to Neutral Milk Hotel for compelling me to listen to a million other wonderful bands.
posted by shadytrees at 8:51 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


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