In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

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In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
In the aeroplane over the sea album cover copy.jpg
Studio album by Neutral Milk Hotel
Released February 10, 1998
Recorded July–September 1997
Studio Pet Sounds Studio, Denver, Colorado
Length 39:55
Producer Robert Schneider
Neutral Milk Hotel chronology
On Avery Island
(1996)On Avery Island1996
In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
Ferris Wheel on Fire
(2011)Ferris Wheel on Fire2011
Singles from In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
  1. "Holland, 1945"
    Released: October 13, 1998

In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is the second and final studio album by the American indie rock band Neutral Milk Hotel. It was released in the United States on February 10, 1998 on Merge Records and May 1998 on Blue Rose Records in the United Kingdom.

Jeff Mangum moved from Athens, Georgia to Denver, Colorado to prepare the bulk of the album's material with producer Robert Schneider, this time at Schneider's newly created Pet Sounds Studio at the home of Jim McIntyre.

In the years since its release, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea has become regarded as one of the greatest albums of the 1990s and of all time.[1] The album was the sixth-best-selling vinyl album in 2008.[2] NME named it the 98th greatest album of all time.[3]


In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is widely considered to be written about Anne Frank due to lyrics seemingly referring to her, such as lines referring to her birth and death dates.[4] Though the group has never officially stated that the album is indeed about Frank, it is a popular theory among fans, and Jeff Mangum has mentioned the influence her diary, The Diary of a Young Girl, has made on his craft and outright referred to "Holland, 1945" being about her while performing live.[5]

Album cover[edit]

Chris Bilheimer altered an old postcard to create the album's cover.

The album's cover was a collaboration between Mangum and R.E.M.'s staff designer, Chris Bilheimer.[6] The general design reflects the taste of Jeff Mangum; Bryan Poole said that "Mangum was always into that old-timey, magic, semi-circus, turn-of-the-century, penny arcade kind of imagery."[7] One particular piece Mangum showed to Bilheimer was an old European postcard with an image of people bathing at a resort, which was then cropped and altered.[7] Bilheimer also designed a broadsheet-style lyrics sheet for the album, and inadvertently titled "Holland, 1945" in the process; Mangum wanted to use either "Holland" or "1945" for the song's title, and Bilheimer suggested he use both.[8]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 5/5 stars[9]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 5/5 stars[10]
Entertainment Weekly B+[11]
Mojo 4/5 stars[12]
NME 6/10[13]
Pitchfork 10/10[5]
Rolling Stone 3/5 stars[14]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 4.5/5 stars[15]
Spin 7/10[16]
Uncut 4/5 stars[17]

In a contemporary review of In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, the College Music Journal called the album "a true lo-fi pop landmark" and cited "Holland, 1945" as a highlight.[18] Pitchfork's M. Christian McDermott referred to Neutral Milk Hotel as a "one psych-rock band making music that's just as catchy as it is frightening" and said that the album "does a credible job of blending Sgt. Pepper with early 90's lo-fi."[19] Ben Ratliff was more mixed in his review for Rolling Stone, writing: "Unfortunately, Mangum went straight for the advanced course in aura and texture, skipping basic training in form and selfediting. [...] He sings loudly, straining the limits of an affectless voice. [...] For those not completely sold on its folk charm, Aeroplane is thin-blooded, woolgathering stuff."[14] Spin's Erik Himmelsbach referred to the album as "cut-and-paste pop songs [that] are darkly comic and wonderfully wide-eyed" while noting tracks such as "The King of Carrot Flowers" as a "self-indulgent, three-part musical suite".[16]

Jason Ankeny of AllMusic wrote, "lo-fi yet lush, impenetrable yet wholly accessible, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is either the work of a genius or an utter crackpot, with the truth probably falling somewhere in between." Ankeny also praised Mangum's vocals as "far more emotive" than they were on On Avery Island while noting the vagueness of the album's lyrics, concluding that while "Mangum spins his words with the rapid-fire intensity of a young Dylan, the songs are far too cryptic and abstract to fully sink in — In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is undoubtedly a major statement, but just what it's saying is anyone's guess."[9] Robert Christgau of The Village Voice rated the album a "neither",[20] and while he later wrote that the album "convinced alt diehards that maturity can be just as weird as growing up", he also called it "a funereal jape that gets my goat."[21]


Subsequent reviews from Pitchfork and Rolling Stone were much more positive; the latter gave the album four and half of five stars in its 2004 The New Rolling Stone Album Guide: Completely Revised and Updated 4th Edition, with reviewer Roni Sarig writing, "Mangum had put together something resembling an actual band, resulting in a far richer and more organic sound [than On Avery Island]. What's more, the songwriting had blossomed far beyond the bounds of Elephant 6 (or indie rock as a whole), with Mangum etching out timeless transcendentalist pop steeped in a century of American music (from funeral marches to driving punk)." Sarig also commended the album for its "passionate acoustic-guitar strums, irresistible melodies, and lyrics that rarely feel obtuse even when they're nonsensical."[22] Pitchfork, in a 2005 review written by Mark Richardson, gave the album a perfect score. Richardson praised the album's lyrical directness and "kaleidoscopic" musical style.[5] PopMatters named a reissue of the album one of the best of 2005, and wrote, "Aeroplane is a manifesto for a different way of making pop. To hear 'Two-Headed Boy' in 2005 is to realize that Mangum's art is simply superb songwriting. But most of the record adds an ingenious mixture of accordion, brass, organ, fuzzed-out guitars, tape, and other glorious miscellanea." [23] In 2014, Spin regarded the album as "a classic" and the band's "psych-folk opus."[24]

Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler named Aeroplane as a chief reason that his band signed to Merge.[25] Jesse Lacey of Brand New called In the Aeroplane Over the Sea "the greatest record ever written", and has covered "Holland, 1945", "Oh Comely", and "Two-Headed Boy, Part Two" in concert.[26][27] In August 2010 The Swell Season covered "Two-Headed Boy" for The A.V. Club's A.V. Undercover series.[28] Later, in the same year, American musical duo Dresden Dolls also covered "Two-Headed Boy" for The A.V. Club's Holiday Undercover series.[29] In 2010 a group called Neutral Uke Hotel began touring playing ukulele covers of all the songs on the album.[30] Phish covered "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" in a concert on 26 June 2010 at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland.[31]

As of 2013, sales in the United States have exceeded 393,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. [32]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Jeff Mangum, except where indicated. Horn arrangements by Robert Schneider and Scott Spillane.

Side One
No. Title Length
1. "The King of Carrot Flowers, Pt. One" 2:00
2. "The King of Carrot Flowers, Pts. Two & Three" (writers: Jeremy Barnes, Julian Koster, Jeff Mangum, Scott Spillane) 3:06
3. "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" 3:22
4. "Two-Headed Boy" 4:26
5. "The Fool" (writers: Spillane) 1:53
6. "Holland, 1945" 3:15
7. "Communist Daughter" 1:57
Side Two
No. Title Length
1. "Oh Comely" 8:18
2. "Ghost" 4:08
3. "Untitled" 2:16
4. "Two-Headed Boy, Pt. Two" 5:13
Total length: 39:55



Publication Country Accolade Year Rank United States The 100 Greatest Indie Rock Albums of All Time[33] 2009 #2
Blender U.S. 100 Greatest Indie-Rock Albums Ever[34] 2007 #32
Entertainment Weekly U.S. Indie Rock 25[35] 2008
Magnet U.S. Top 60 Albums, 1993-2003[36] 2003 #1
Nude as the News U.S. The 100 Most Compelling Albums of the 90s[37] 1999 #3
Pitchfork U.S. Top 100 Albums of the 1990s[38] 2003 #4
Paste U.S. The Best 90 Albums of the 1990s[39] 2012 #2
Q magazine United Kingdom Top 30 Albums of the Past 25 Years[40] 2010 #16
Spin U.S. 100 Greatest Albums, 1985-2005[41] 2005 #97
Village Voice U.S. Pazz & Jop: Albums of the Year[42] 1998 #15

(*) denotes an unranked list.


  1. ^ "Overall Chart". BestEverAlbums. 
  2. ^ Kreps, Daniel (January 8, 2009). "Radiohead, Neutral Milk Hotel Help Vinyl Sales Almost Double in 2008". Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 5, 2009. 
  3. ^ "The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time: 100–1". NME. October 25, 2013. Retrieved August 17, 2015. 
  4. ^ Clark, Taylor (February 26, 2008). "Jeff Mangum, the Salinger of indie rock". Slate. Retrieved February 23, 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c Richardson, Mark (September 26, 2005). "Neutral Milk Hotel: In the Aeroplane Over the Sea". Pitchfork. Retrieved November 16, 2007. 
  6. ^ Cooper 2005, p. 79.
  7. ^ a b Cooper 2005, p. 81.
  8. ^ Cooper 2005, p. 82.
  9. ^ a b Ankeny, Jason. "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea – Neutral Milk Hotel". AllMusic. Retrieved November 15, 2007. 
  10. ^ Larkin, Colin (2009). "Neutral Milk Hotel". The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-199-72636-1. Retrieved March 5, 2017. 
  11. ^ Brunner, Rob (March 6, 1998). "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved November 13, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Neutral Milk Hotel: In the Aeroplane Over the Sea". Mojo: 130. 2005. Its opaque, surrealistic narratives about wartime Europe and two-headed children proceed in a breathless, mellifluous torrent across a lo-fi landscape of thrumming acoustics, soaring brass and, on the title track, massed bowed saws. 
  13. ^ Fadele, Dele (May 23, 1998). "Neutral Milk Hotel – In The Aeroplane Over The Sea". NME. Archived from the original on August 17, 2000. Retrieved November 13, 2015. 
  14. ^ a b Ratliff, Ben (February 13, 1998). "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on July 16, 2010. Retrieved August 14, 2015. 
  15. ^ "Neutral Milk Hotel: Album Guide". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on February 19, 2011. Retrieved January 24, 2016. 
  16. ^ a b Himmelsbach, Erik (March 1998). "Neutral Milk Hotel: In the Aeroplane Over the Sea". Spin. 14 (3): 134–35. ISSN 0886-3032. Retrieved August 14, 2015. 
  17. ^ "Neutral Milk Hotel: In the Aeroplane Over the Sea". Uncut: 127. 2005. [W]ith unhinged evangelical urgency and ambitiously ramshackle arrangements... 
  18. ^ Helms, Colin (November 10, 2000). "Neutral Milk Hotel: In the Aeroplane Over the Sea". CMJ. Archived from the original on February 2, 2009. Retrieved November 16, 2007. 
  19. ^ McDermott, M. Christian. "Neutral Milk Hotel: In the Aeroplane Over the Sea". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on September 22, 2004. Retrieved November 16, 2007. 
  20. ^ Christgau, Robert (2000). "Neutral Milk Hotel: In the Aeroplane over the Sea". Christgau's Consumer Guide: Albums of the '90s. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-24560-2. Retrieved November 15, 2007. 
  21. ^ Christgau, Robert (March 2, 1999). "La-Di-Da-Di-Di? Or La-Di-Da-Di-Da?". The Village Voice. Retrieved November 15, 2007. 
  22. ^ Brackett & Hoard 2004, pp. 579–80.
  23. ^ Layman, Will (December 19, 2005). "Best Reissues of 2005: 17 Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (Domino)". PopMatters. Retrieved November 16, 2007. 
  24. ^ "1998: Neutral Milk Hotel’s ‘In the Aeroplane Over the Sea’ Takes Flight". Spin. July 23, 2014. Retrieved November 22, 2015. 
  25. ^ Schreiber, Ryan (February 14, 2005). "Interview: The Arcade Fire". Pitchfork. Retrieved November 17, 2007. 
  26. ^ Carioli, Carly (May 1, 2007). "Brand New singer covers Neutral Milk Hotel's ‘Oh Comely’". The Phoenix. Retrieved December 24, 2007. 
  27. ^ "Jesse Lacey playing Neutral Milk Hotel's Two Headed Boy Part 2 at Mr. Smalls Theatre in Pittsburgh, PA on August 4th, 2008" on YouTube. Retrieved on July 16, 2012.
  28. ^ "The Swell Season covers Neutral Milk Hotel". The A.V. Club. August 10, 2010. Retrieved July 16, 2012. 
  29. ^ "Dresden Dolls cover Neutral Milk Hotel". The A.V. Club. December 15, 2010. Retrieved April 9, 2013. 
  30. ^ Padgett, Ray (August 6, 2010). "Song of the Day: Neutral Uke Hotel, ‘The King of Carrot Flowers Pt. One’". Cover Me. Retrieved July 16, 2012. 
  31. ^ "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea History". Retrieved May 12, 2016. 
  32. ^
  33. ^ "The 100 Greatest Indie Rock Albums of All Time". March 23, 2009. Retrieved February 1, 2011. 
  34. ^ "100 Greatest Indie-Rock Albums Ever". Stereogum. November 14, 2007. Retrieved February 12, 2011. 
  35. ^ "Indie Rock 25". Entertainment Weekly. March 20, 2008. Retrieved January 4, 2013. 
  36. ^ "‘The Evidence’: Magnet's Top 60 Albums, 1993-2003 (10th Anniversary Issue)". Magnet. Retrieved on November 15, 2007.
  37. ^ Carpenter, Troy. "3. Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea". Nude as the News. Archived from the original on June 28, 2003. Retrieved November 15, 2007. 
  38. ^ LeMay, Matt (November 17, 2003). "Top 100 Albums of the 1990s: In the Aeroplane Over the Sea". Pitchfork. Retrieved November 15, 2007. 
  39. ^ Jackson, Josh (February 24, 2012). "The 90 Best Albums of the 1990s". Paste. Retrieved July 28, 2014. 
  40. ^ "Q's top 30 albums of the past 25 years: 16. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea - Neutral Milk Hotel". The Independent. December 23, 2010. Retrieved December 23, 2010. 
  41. ^ "100 Greatest Albums, 1985–2005". Spin. June 20, 2005. Retrieved February 1, 2011. 
  42. ^ "The 1998 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll". The Village Voice. March 2, 1999. Retrieved November 27, 2009. 


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]