In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (song)

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"In the Aeroplane Over the Sea"
Song by Neutral Milk Hotel
from the album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
ReleasedFebruary 10, 1998 (1998-02-10)
RecordedJuly–September 1997
StudioPet Sounds, Denver, Colorado
Songwriter(s)Jeff Mangum
Producer(s)Robert Schneider

"In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" is the third song on the Neutral Milk Hotel album of the same name.

Background and composition[edit]

Bandleader Jeff Mangum wrote the song almost instantaneously while staying in Athens, Georgia with fellow Elephant 6 musicians. The song was written soon after Mangum became romantically involved with Laura Carter. While sitting in the yard of their Athens home, Mangum suddenly announced, "I got a song in my head!" and ran inside the house to play the song for the first time.[1]

The song makes a brief reference to Anne Frank, who is alluded to throughout the album.[2] It is about a young man who realizes that one day he is going to die, and accepts the idea. "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" is one of the more uplifting songs on the album despite having death as the subject material. Stewart Mason of AllMusic writes, "'In the Aeroplane Over the Sea' is almost giddy at the thought of eternal rest: 'When we meet on a cloud, I'll be laughing out loud' probably isn't the average train of thought of kid barely in his mid-20s, but it certainly beats one of Kurt Cobain's howls of existential despair."[3]

The song opens with double-tracked acoustic guitars, whose "chords are full and serene in contrast to the percussive, bare triads" of King of Carrot Flowers, according to Medium's Joel Settlemoir.[4] Mangum's vocals are accompanied by acoustic guitars, a singing saw played by Julian Koster, Scott Spillane's trumpet, and minimal percussion.[3] The song is in the key of G major, and for the most part follows a simple I-vi-IV-V chord progression.[5] It is in the 6/8 time signature and has a A A B1 A B2 A form.[4]

Release and reception[edit]

The song was critically praised upon its release. Consequence of Sound ranked it the 28th best song of all time in 2012. Reviewer Dan Caffrey writes, "For me, 'Aeroplane' glides along with an odd sense of ease. It's about how a brief moment of contentment can sometimes outshine a crippling tragedy in one's life."[2] ranked the song the 89th best of the 1990s.[6] WOXY listed it at No. 359 in its Top 500 Songs of All-Time in 2005.[7] German magazine Musikexpress ranked "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" as the 141st greatest song in its top 700 list.[8]


  1. ^ Cooper, Kim (2007) [2005]. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. 33⅓. New York, NY: Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-8264-1690-2.
  2. ^ a b "Top 100 Songs Ever: 50-1". Consequence of Sound. September 21, 2012. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
  3. ^ a b Mason, Stewart. "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea review". AllMusic. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
  4. ^ a b Settlemoir, Joel (November 13, 2016). "Analysis of Neutral Milk Hotel's 'In The Aeroplane Over The Sea'". Medium. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
  5. ^ "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea Rebuttal". University of California. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
  6. ^ "The 90 Best Songs of the 90s". October 6, 2015. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
  7. ^ "WOXY Top 500 Songs of All-Time (2005)". Retrieved August 27, 2018.
  8. ^ "Die 700 besten Songs aller Zeiten: Plätze 150 bis 101". Musikexpress (in German). January 4, 2014. Retrieved August 27, 2018.