Album Experience - In The Aeroplane Over The Sea

Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over The Sea

Recently, I broke down and listened to an album that my brotehr recommended to me about a year ago. 

He refused to describe it in any detail, preferring to let me experience it on my own. The only things he was willing to divulge were the title, the band’s name, and the subject matter; “In the Aeroplane Over The Sea,” Neutral Milk Hotel, and the life of Anne Frank. I was confused, but after his recommendation, he would say no more, so for the longest time, I forgot all about the album and chalked it up to my brother’s weird taste in music. Jump forward to last Christmas, and the last present I open is a sealed jewel case with swimming still-faced children saluting the sky, an army of jolly deformed nutcracker men drumming a response to the watchful sun, and the name “Aeroplane Over The Sea” proudly emblazoned across the face and spine. I looked to my brother, but once again, he would say nothing. At this point, I knew his strategy well, and I wouldn’t say I liked it one bit. Still, I knew what I had to do, so after everything was put away that morning, I went to my car, turned over the ignition to the tune of a pair of wheezing lungs, and gifted my CD player the spark of life.


The first thing that struck me about the album was its sound quality — one word, awful. Recorded on what sounds like an outdated laptop microphone, the bassline of many songs are a series of blurred lines that lap at your eardrums like the sea’s harsh waves. The lyrics, already sung in an odd Gaelic manner, are sometimes indistinguishable from pure stinging noise; what is audible through the buzz of backing static is bleak, black, and distressing. By the second song, I was mildly disturbed, and by the fourth, I was distraught. But the audio quality wasn’t the only thing assaulting my senses. The melodies themselves, like so many sickly children tugging hold of my earlobes, were warped, lilting and hungry; They seemed outwardly nice but concealed a deep, cloying emptiness within the pits of their melancholic stomachs. As the shock of the album’s beginning wore off on me, I slowly made more and more sense of the lyrics being sung, spewed like so much sparkling caustic bile from the singer’s throat, and I knew then what my brother had meant when he mentioned Anne Frank so long ago.


Airplane Over The Sea is the sort of album meant to be heard all at once, if ever at all. Each and every song helps tell the tale of Anne Franks life, though with the minor caveat that our storyteller and singer is a raving, depressed man who lives his life in a lovesick chronologically confused stupor, daydreaming for his one and only love born 50 years prior. As the songs continue the listener learns more of his obsession as the descriptions of Anne become more and more vivid, describing everything from her Rose-laid eyes to her winged spine to her teeth interlocked with the flesh of our author’s stillborn brother and yet more increasingly sexual and disturbing imagery until finally, nearing the end of the album, The author decries her death and journey into eternal memory stating that “One day in New York City, a girl fell from the sky from the top of a burning apartment building… I know that she will live forever.” As the final song ends with a climax of empty sadness and resignation, the last thing that can be heard through the static and clanking of the recording equipment is our weary, warped narrator reaching an inevitable conclusion. He sings somberly. “I’m still wanting my face on your cheek - When we break, we’ll wait for our miracle. God is a place you will wait for the rest of your life… She is all that you need, but don’t hate her when she gets up to leave.”


Airplane Over the Sea is too many things to list. It’s creepy, cloying, and at times hardly even feels like music in the modern sense of the word. Still, if there is a single word that can adequately describe the album, it is art. Mulling the meaning of each and every haunting, rakish lyric in my head, I came away


feeling as though I had witnessed something - A tragedy, a death, or self-destruction of the spirit. Oddly, though I was miserable, I was also inspired; The author within me saw in the sublime bleakness a light of new horizons, and so, since then I’ve been trying to incorporate some of the ideas and stylings I found


within the airplane’s rusted old engines to use. Though I still feel discomfort from having listened to the album - and frankly, I never want to hear its contents ever again - I can’t help but be thankful for having heard it. It’s precisely that feeling that a truly expert writer should strive to befriend, to learn to ply to


their silver-tongued speech as if it were a river of melted metal. If nothing else, the fact that I’m inspired by it to improve reason enough for its existence; And reason enough too for my brother’s terrible taste in music, if only this once. Should the madcap singer’s words ring true and Anne herself still lingers in the


woolen clouds of the countryside, perhaps she’s happy that her ghost is always inspiring the minds of men even now, so long after her death. 


Perhaps she’s smiling on us all with eyes wrapped in rose petals, and a ribcage that shutters the morning sun.


Listen to the Album here!