“If there’s one track that I’m probably going to regret putting in the top ten of this thing, it’s this one, care of the outfit known as Neutral Milk Hotel, which seems to be concerned with dying and death and whatever happens (or doesn’t) afterwards, which of course throws light back on before, life itself, the whole mad aeroplane journey across the wide open ocean of eternity. But it’s too recent, I fear, too close. The song hasn’t had time to flip through its half-life, get overplayed or whatever, die a death and then re-emerge as … well, who knows? Because that’s what music does, for me anyway. The stuff I truly love. And right now, right here, June sometime, calendar year 2001, I’m f***ing in love with In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, the album and the song, and the band, about whom I know pretty much nothing beyond what the album cover tells me … and it’s a great f***ing album cover, the kind of thing you have to have on vinyl if only to maximize the size of the imagery.
Which honestly is why I bought it. I liked what I was hearing in the record store but it was the cover that sealed the deal. The whole thing throws me back to a time when the whole package mattered absolutely, you wouldn’t think of not listening to it all in one go, headphones on, the cover in your lap. And then there’s the voice, the way it wraps itself around the delirious gush of words, young man by name of Jeff Mangum finding an entirely new way to deliver the poetry of his soul. And the band‘s right there with him the whole way, your basic bass-drums-guitar core, but also organ trumpet flugelhorn trombone saxophone zanzithophone banjo – whatever it takes to punch a hole through to a whole new sonic universe. Or not. Because I could be wrong. It could be too soon to lay so much praise on any record. It is too soon. But what can I do? I’m in love. I’m a fool.” (Philip Random)
“I’m pretty sure this is one of those it’s-not-about-what-you-think-it’s-about songs, even if you think the ‘I Love You Jesus Christ’ stuff is just being ironic. Because there’s a level of sublime madness at work here in the Neutral Milk Hotel (call it surrealism, I guess) where Jesus is at least as real and miraculous as any carrot flowers, but the higher reality isn’t in the words anyway, it’s where they allow the music to go, the great waves unleashed, a perfect storm, except its not wind and rain but multi-colours, psychedelic and pure … and yeah, looking down from on high, the Lord God in Heaven smiles and knows that it is good, because multi-coloured psychedelia never killed anybody, just amused and enthused and perhaps confused them.” (Philip Random)
“It says 1968 on the record jacket but this Taj Mahal stomper is pure 1998 for me, serving as a personal anthem while I scaled back certain extremes of lifestyle, making that decision that most of us make as we see our forties looming – to not just burn out, but to change, because change is good, certainly the kind you choose to make. Like maybe opening your mind, maybe starting to actually ‘get’ the blues. Not just the obvious stuff, howling and mean. No, the real stuff, or real enough anyway, whatever Taj Mahal was digging up and dealing out way back when.” (Philip Random)
“The cut-off date for this list is officially August 2000, because that’s when I started putting it together, though you may have noticed there’s precious little in the way of 1990s stuff included. This is because it’s an all vinyl apocalypse that I’m exploring here and I pretty much stopped buying new vinyl in 1989, mainly because that’s when CDs took over (for worse more than better, I’d argue, but that’s a whole other tangent). One album I did need to own on vinyl was 1998’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel. Because the cover’s a damned fine work of art, so I wanted it big, and because it just had to be heard in analogue form, with hisses and crackles, and all manner of other sweet imprecisions. And, in the case of Holland 1945, all that semen staining the mountaintops.” (Philip Random)