Neutral Milk Hotel

In a word, genius.

No hang on, what's the wo-

Ah! That's right - "generic."

*special introductory paragraph!
*Everything Is 7"
*On Avery Island
*In The Aeroplane Over The Sea

Neutral Milk Hotel is the brainchild of child-brained singer/songwriter Jeff Mangum. His compositions are, at their core, somewhat standard and unimpressive (generally two or three basic chords), but he's built a large cult following due to three key strengths: (a) coming up with striking, hooky vocal melodies; (b) creating hypnotic soundscapes from a variety of instrumental tones and effects; and (c) convincing people born in 1980 that "emoting" is a synonym for "singing everything too fucking loud". Neutral Milk Hotel is part of the Elephant 6 musical collective. For more information on that, look in the dictionary under "stupid bullshit."

Everything Is 7" - Cher Doll 1994
Rating = 5

Anyone who thinks everything is 7" clearly hasn't seen my pud!

And that's the end of the review.

Reader Comments

Jon Landau
I'm surprised you didn't mention the over-modulated lo-fi recording quality nor the two sweetly acoustic yet filthily distorted songs to be found on this single. The title track, despite its overly twee chorus, harkens back to that great original Pavement sound, and the two-chord "Snow Song, Pt. 1" could easily be mistaken for early Sebadoh. And by "Pavement" and "Sebadoh," I of course mean "Bruce Springsteen."

Did I ever tell you what I said about Bruce Springsteen in 1974? I said, "I have seen the future of rock and roll, and its name is Clive Barker. But also, some guy fucked me in the ass in the men's room and I think it was Bruce Springsteen."

Troll Parrot
Jon Landau - imitate Mark Prindle much? Jeez...

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On Avery Island - Merge 1996
Rating = 7

Hi! I'm Etch-A-Sketch Bill. You know, when I'm not having fun playing with my Etch-A-Sketch, or drawing something important on my Etch-A-Sketch, I often like to wonder to myself, "I wonder what it would be like if Etch-A-Sketches could play music?" This is something that today's commercial marketers really should consider thinking about because think about it - if an Etch-A-Sketch could play music, then it would cover all five senses! You'd HEAR the music coming out, as you SAW what you were drawing, FELT the knobs moving in your hand, TASTED the toxic silver powder leaking from the bottom, and SMELLED the inside of your throat dissolving. It would truly be the best of both worlds! Yes, one thing's for certain: if an Etch-A-Sketch could play music, it would probably sound like a bunch of 90-degree angles and sloppy, wiggly diagonal lines.

During the period in his life when he released music under the name "Neutral Milk Hotel," Jeff Mangum believed strongly in the healing power of music. And because of his childlike but honest view of the world and its cruelties, he wore his heart not just on his sleeve but on every inch of every piece of clothing he owned. Add to that his symbol-heavy, metaphor-rich, analogy-filled, allegory-loaded approach to lyric-writing, and you've discovered probably the true reason that he attracted the rabid love of so many young people in the late '90s. So go back and change that opening paragraph to reflect my newfound recognition of the obvious.

Seriously though, check out some of these lyrics:

"Oh when this world just gets so grating/All the grittiness of life/But don't take those pills your boyfriend gave you/You're too wonderful to die"

"Always in life we all must make this mistake/And so I go it alone and the pressure is great/I hold on to my own/Oh please oh don't go away"

"All I could want is silver and spinning/Out from your arms and into the pretty pit of your heart/So simply and softly we'd flow/But I let you down/And swollen and small is where you'll find me now"

"Follow me through a city of frost covered angels/I swear I have nothing to prove/I just want to dance in your tangles/To give me some reason to move"

"So wake up and if the holidays don't hollow out your eyes/Then press yourself against whatever you find to be beautiful and trembling with life/Because I'm so happy you didn't die"

"And if she only really knew/One billion angels could come and save her soul/They could save her soul until she shines/So pretty"

"Someone is waiting to swallow all the halos out of you/As your face blows through my windows/Sending pieces flying all around my room"

See? The pain and tragedy of life. The faith in love, beauty and renewal. The confusion of what the hell is he talking about.

Most of the songs are just a couple of major chords and a decent vocal melody, but they're often aurally mesmerizing due to the lo-fi recording skills of Mangum and his producer/co-musician Robert Schneider. The guitars are (wonderfully) turned up too loud in the mixer, resulting in not only the distorted guitars but also the acoustic ones being buried under hiss and fuzz. Mangum & Co. then color in the dots with a combination of timbres ranging from drums, bass and organ to horns, xylophone, Casio, bells, electronics, loops, and bizarre decaying racket. Yes, the world of tennis will never forget John McEnroe and his bizarre decaying racket. Remember when it leaked battery acid all over Bjorn Borg and burned his right arm off?

What do you mean, "I Forget"?

Oh! You're right! It WAS Guy Forget!

(Little tennis humor for all the anal sex enthusiasts out there)

Most of the songs sound much calmer, happier and more relaxed than the lyrics would suggest, with Mr. Mangum adopting a faux-British accent and singing in a friendly, untrained 'guy next door' voice. I couldn't tell you who his actual influences are, but the songs definitely remind me of Syd Barrett, The Kinks, Guided By Voices, Pavement, Paul McCartney, The Move, Yo La Tengo, Chris Knox, and even (in the darker moments) Radiohead!

This is a good CD, but you really have to be in it for the touching lyrics, vocal hooks and idiosyncratic sonic dimensions, because there is very little of interest going on in the way of compositional creativity or instrumental prowess. You also have to have a soft spot for happy pop-folksiness, because only a few songs near the end deviate from what is overall a twee, optimistic tone. But hey - how girly can it be when Mark "If It's Not Hardcore Punk, Then It's Been Incorrectly Written" Prindle is able to enjoy it at a 7/10 level? How sissified can ANY music be when it's driven by that wonderfully non-mainstream attitude that begs, "What the hell are you doing with your equipment to create this strange concoction of compressed fuzzy beauty?"

For a more precise description of the unique sound of On Avery Island, let me share with you a few phrases culled from my listening notes:

- "Crazy hiss!"
- "One thick chord - great fuzzed-out blasts"
- "Ugly annoying stereophonic high-pitched notes over a cool industrial loop. Odd! Different!"
- "Fuzzed out distorted guitars being swooped upwards a full octave every time through, topped with squiggly electronic noises that sound like a broken Atari game. Unfortunately, the last half is just ugly decaying noise."
- "Ends with a music box."
- "Mellow trumpet solo"
- "Drumstick tapping"
- "Disturbing loops and distorted feedback keep increasing in volume and intensity before finally fading away, replaced by a spooky little broken Casio/chimes poly-melody over a bassy organ rumble. FOR FIVE HUNDRED YEARS."

Granted, I left out the dozen-plus appearances of "happy," "pleasant," "peaceful" and "warm," but that's just because I'm a negative person with negative ideas. Check this out: "I didn't nor needn't refuse to withhold derogatory complaints nor nihilistic negativity about the Plain White T's." That's like 58 negatives right there!

Hell, A HUNDRED and 58 if I mention "Hey There Delilah"!

Also, from now on I'm going to refer to Jeff Mangum as "Tom Selleck IS Mangum, P.I.." I hope that's okay because I already changed his birth records.

Reader Comments
Good CD if not at all perfect. I agree that the sound of the record is absolutely fascinating.

"Song Against Sex" and the incredibly creepy "April 8th," in particular, are wonderful.

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In The Aeroplane Over The Sea - Merge 1998
Rating = 6

A few years ago, I went to a local watering hole to view the remnants of top comedian Neil Hamburger live at one of The Onion Comedy Newspaper's fancy get-togethers. Also on the bill were Mr. Show's Paul F. Tompkins and some other entertainers whose names rang nothing to my aged ear. This being The Onion, I assumed that all the performers would be funny-focused, but suddenly as Mr. Tompkins cleared the stage, a young college boy climbed onstage with his acoustic guitar, parked in front of the mic, and sang shitty, heartfelt songs at the top of his lungs for the next half-hour. And I don't mean he screamed with rage or tore up his vocal chords with passion; he simply sang his dippy la-de-da shit songs as loud as he could get his la-de-da voice to go, as if unaware that the microphone provides an amplification service. I just stood in confusion wondering, "What on Earth would have given him the idea to sing in such an annoying way?"

Now I know. It was this album.

Not only does Tom Selleck IS Mangum, P.I. practice this brutally obnoxious 'yell-sing' approach on half the album (tracks 2-4 are goddamned near unlistenable!), but he's also traded in his faux-British accent for a Tori Amos-style 'Deep South' idiot drawl; "speaking" is now pronounced "spay-kayng," "way" is "way-ee," "save" = "say-eev," "bright" = "bray-eet," "airplane" = "air-play-eene," "wait" = "way-eet," etc. Furthermore, although they do still keep the instrumentation incredibly rich and varied (band members are credited with guitar, bass, floor tom, organ, home organ, air organ, Wandering Genie organ, shortwave radio, trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone, euphonium, tape, horn arrangements, piano, saxophone, electronic MIDI saxophone, bagpipes, singing saw, bowed banjo, accordion and white noise!), the mix is no longer idiosyncratic or lo-fi fuzzed-out, leaving us with a bunch of mostly-acoustic strummy folk things with Flaming Lips-style orchestration or ambient noise on top. At its best, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea is nice, harmless psychedelic-folk. At its worst, it's a self-absorbed 'sensitive' folk guy shouting his stupidly pronounced lyrics over generic happy chord changes. And at its worst worst -- he's horny.

I'm not sure why an album based on the tragic story of Anne Frank would need to include lyrics like "We would lay and learn what each other's bodies were for" and "Semen stains the mountain tops" and "All in your ovaries/All of them milking with green fleshy flowers/While powerful pistons were sugary sweet machines/Smelling of semen all under the garden," but what do I know about World War II.

Speaking of Pearl Harbor -- don't get me "wong" (!); there are some really good songs on here. The opening and closing tracks are particularly pretty in their simplicity, and there's a great run of multifaceted material in the middle (dark marching band "The Fool," fast fuzzy rocker "Holland, 1945," swishy noise-filled understated folk "Communist Daughter" and somber minor-key epic "Oh Comely"). But bland, basic strummers like "Two-Headed Boy" and the title track are elevated to a violent new level of noxiousness by Mangum's insistence on NOT SHUTTING THE FUCK UP YOU ASSHOLE!!! I don't mean to be a dick, but how self-centered do you have to be to emotionally connect with songs this narcissistic? Whatever Mangum thinks he's singing about, all I can make out is "I love hearing the sound of my own voice!"

This album is a cult classic - a hugely popular record that is considered by many to be one of the finest pop recordings of all time. So perhaps I just got to it too late in my musical and emotional development for it to impact me the way it has so many others. For a good comparison -- when I was an emotionally vulnerable college student, I was listening to the Flaming Lips' In A Priest-Driven Ambulance. I still think it's brilliant and it still affects me emotionally, but I can't deny that (a) many of the chord changes are simple and generic, and (b) Wayne's off-key high-pitched shrieking is probably as offputting to 40-somethings as Mangum's over-loud faux-Southisms are to me. So maybe had I been 18 in 1998 instead of 1991, Neutral Milk Hotel would have been 'the bee's knees' and 'what time it is,' rather than just 'an asshole' who 'sings too loud.' Who knows? Kids today, with their long hair.

Reader Comments
Hey Mark, nice reviews. Thought I was the only one who found Neutral Milk Hotel pretty damn overrated... though I agree that On Avery Island is a much better record. Is it a coincedence that you reviewed In the Aeroplane Over the Sea on its 10 year anniversary?
I vividly remember college parties circa 2003 with this record blaring and on loop. Maybe you've been to such parties. Although the record has its moments, it's essentially a so-so record that does good job of appealing to requisite traits of the indie/hipster kid. Magnum's voice is dripping with shameless, unaware narcissism; the lyrical content is often creepy and flat-out bizarre (How could anyone enjoy to the lyrics to "Two-Headed Boy"?) but somehow misconstrued as clever, deep, and romantic; and several of the songs flat-out suck without any redeeming qualities. The band does have a pechant for coming up with a good melody, but even the good songs are brought down by the narcissistic weight, grotesque lyrics, and the reach-exceeding-grasp presentation. So why is this record so popular? Well, I haven't met anyone over 30 that likes it, and it's certainly a very non-threatening record with easy melodies to accept. There also seemed to be a trend a few years back (is it still continuing?) of singer/songwriter's being more indie (or cool) the more emotive and terrible they sang. Right now I promise you there's a scruffy boy and quirky girl watching Juno before heading off to a party where this song is playing. Somewhere in the world some hipsters are also probably having sex to this and thinking the lyrics are intense and romantic. Ew. I know Wayne Coyne has a pretty bad voice, especially in the Lips' early days, but I get the idea that's his actual voice and he never had anything to prove with it. People like Coyne, Neil Young, and Mark E. Smith sound like shit, but they also found a musical style that suited them so well that nobody else would sound right singing/speaking their songs. This is the kind of record I wish could be recorded again with a less pretentious vocalist. They say younger people are more self-absorbed and--in their early work--are trying to prove themselves to the world in ways they later find embarassing. Yeeeep.
Hey Mark,

This album is indeed hipster bullshit. It's okay and somewhat listenable, but it's sooo overrated. So many people I know swear by this album, and I just don't get it. There are plenty of other bands and artists that do lo-fi mossy folky songs better (such as Little Wings and The Microphones), so I can't get into it. I'm glad to see that someone else sees it my way too. That's what I get for living in a sea of hipsters (it gets messy and crowded).
Need to disagree here. Yes, his vocals are strange and clunky, but Joplin and Dylan's vocals were received in the same manner way back in the 60's, and yet nowadays I don't hear many people complaining about how Dylan's voice brought him down. I don't think you have to be self-centered to connect with these songs. Lyrics do not provide meaning to music necessarily, and music can move without words. And as a great young composer named Mason Bates once said, words and vocals are just one other element of music, and they need not dominate necessarily. I think as a textural whole, these songs are brilliant.

I'm surprised that you would bring the record down for simple chord progressions. Simple has never meant bad. And one "generic" element doesn't make the song generic.

And I find it amusing that the older and "wiser" generation is dismissing this as naive Indie generation music. It's not about the age, it's about the music. It seems like a "hipster" thing to do, to dismiss music because of the people who listen to it. Can't expect much better with Americans though.
Very good NMH review. Don't be surprised if you get a load of comments like on your VU review! I could never really get what that album was about either.
i think you focused too much on the performance more than in the album itself... i think is not overrated it's just a pretty album with (yes) a) unnecessary obscenity b) two songs that are really generic. But it works sometime, i'm not mr. sensitive, but it appeals to me in some way...

i might be gay, i know... let's not go there
Great reviews, as always. I think you're the only person I've ever known who likes "Oh Comely" but doesn't like "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea." The latter song went on the CD that Bev and I distributed as a favor at our wedding. There's a Jeff Magnum live album that he recorded before Aeroplane on which he performs the Phil Spector song "I Love How You Love Me," and it's neat to hear how literally the whole of "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea"'s guitar part is stolen from that song, with the melody replaced. I think it's a cool way to take one of the poppiest of pop songs and rebuild it as an odd celebration of mortality.

I totally understand all the problems you have with Jeff Magnum, especially his voice. Back when I was with Jen, she once reached over and shut the CD off while she was asleep, she felt his voice was so inherently disagreeable. As a shitty singer myself, maybe I feel an odd kinship with him? (It's some odd synaptic quirk that I love hearing him sing but can't deal with Jeff Buckley or Eddie Vedder.) And personally, I've always taken the Anne Frank connection as a weird allusion to the many ways the Nazis perverted and tortured the human body until it was unrecognizable, and his weird sexual, mutant imagery (whether it's Nazi abuse, Siamese twins, or surreal lists of juxtaposed body parts) as the real focus of the lyrics. Something about humanity's ability to rise above the worst circumstances imaginable and find a place of beauty, whether that means belief in a literal soul or just some hippie-ish babble about the transcendent power of love, I think it's about finding hope in places that seem hopeless, and realizing that pain is always temporary, even if it might not seem like it. I think that's the core of the album that really touches people, though I can totally understand seeing it as over-earnest, self-indulgent emo nonsense as well. Either it hits you or it doesn't, and there's no shame either way.
Man, I really HATED this album for a while. I first heard it about 4 years ago when I was an 18 year old college freshman. I had just discovered the brilliance of Pixies, Pavement, and Flaming Lips (thanks largely to this site) and was really excited about this whole new world of music I was just getting introduced to. One of the bands I’d heard mentioned along some of those other bands was Neutral Milk Hotel. So I went to limewire and downloaded a song called “In the Aeropane Over the Sea”. I was assured that I was going to be rewarded with more brilliance but when I heard those chords all I could do was laugh. It was so embarrassingly bland I actually thought maybe I had downloaded a fake. But as I accumulated the rest of the album it became apparent that this was for real and not even the worst offender. I was deceived! Like that guy from Family Guy I wanted to shout from the mountaintops *points to album* “Phony! Look at the big fat phony!”

I’ve since come around a bit but I still can’t help but roll my eyes a little at the cult of Neutral Milk Hotel. Now, I’ve got nothing personal against these people but I just can’t help but wonder what the hell they’re listening to sometimes. My friend once told me this was an album “to cry my eyes out to.” I mean, huh? Who could possibly cry their eyes out to cute upbeat folk pop? The lyrics might be dark but the music certainly isn’t most of the time and I find Oh, Comely too plain, overlong, and dirgey to feel anything other than boredom listening to it. Defenders of this album will say stuff like “I'm surprised that you would bring the record down for simple chord progressions. Simple has never meant bad. And one "generic" element doesn't make the song generic.” Of course simple isn’t inherently bad, but when it’s simple along with being obvious and dull (like the title track for instance) it’s not a good thing either. And one generic element can make a song generic when that generic element is the musical foundation for the entire song. Anyway, my opinion is pretty much in line with yours here. It’s a nice indie folk album that’s a bit hit or miss and unfortunately when it’s misses it’s pretty damn embarrassing.
thank you for not giving in an aeroplane over the sea 10/10

i always knew you were one of god's chosen and this proves it
I'm not going to return to the issue again, but I wrote a rebuttal to the review and a few of the user comments at my fairly new website. Hopefully this essay will both clarify points and further spark the discussion about the album's greatness. I hope it is enjoyed (or despised - either is okay).
Mark: By coincidence, I recently posted some rejected NMH album cover art on my flickr site:

Sums up my feelings about their work, too.
Well, I can understand people not getting into this. It's appeal seems to hinge on the surreal juxtaposition of utterly disturbing lyrics with utterly simple chords. The production really helps too. But I think what strikes me about this album, as a musician, are the melodies. These are LONG melodies that still manage to flow really well. They're pretty involved too, especially given that few of the songs have more than, say, four chords. Of course, if you don't like his voice, all of this just means that you'll be annoyed because he rarely shuts up. He fills every space possible with some kind of melody, almost always vocal.

Would I give the album a ten? Maybe, but I doubt I'd be able to explain why. I really can't see On Avery Island as better than this, though. The melodies are nowhere near as cool, and the sound experiments are a lot more obnoxious sounding, I think. I can deal with self-absorbed lyricism better than self-absorbed sonic bullshit. (Oskar P. Einarsson)
O...kay, 6/10?!?

I'm truly one of the flock here, this album being a top-fiver of mine for over 2 years now.

The thing I find the absolute greatest about this album (apart from the great melodies contrasted against WEIRD ASS instrumentation, the fact that the high point of the album is just one guy, shouting and playing acoustic guitar (2HB, pt. 1) and the question: "What in the name of all that's holy INSPIRED the guy to write this?") is how the album is constructed. I have never heard a better sequencing of songs on any album, before or since.

This album was suggested to me by no one in particular, I just saw a glimpse of it in some magazine, at a record store or wherever...can't remember. I will NEVER forget, however, the first time I actually listened to it. So, no over-rating here, I guess...

I, however, have never understood what's the deal about Radiohead - now, THAT'S an over-rated band!
I think that Aeroplane is literally the greatest album ever. But I think I would have been disappointed if you had just joined the pro-Aeroplane cult right away.

I've had Aeroplane for a few years and liked it a lot, but it didn't become my favorite album until last summer when I read Kim Cooper's book about it (also entitled In the Aeroplane Over the Sea) from the 33 1/3 book series. The book told the whole story of Neutral Milk Hotel, while it detailed the process of recording the album, and (most importantly) gave interpretations for all the songs.

The biggest mistake that anyone can make when listening to this album is to think that it's ONLY about Anne Frank. It's not. "Two-Headed Boy", for example... It's got nothing to do with Anne. It's literally about this circus freak tapping on this jar that he's in so that the narrator of the song can find him. (The Aeroplane book said that it took Scott Spillane, NMH's horn player, 5 years to figure out that that was what the song was about. Ha!)

Also, the subject will sometimes switch with each verse of a song. For example, everyone knows that the first verse of "Holland, 1945" is obviously about Anne Frank dying and being reincarnated, but a lot of people don't realize that the second verse is about the brother of someone who Jeff knew, this brother who had killed himself with a shotgun blast to the head, and he's now holding onto this wheel in the sky because he doesn't want to come back to Earth again. Or another great example is "Oh Comely", which seems to switch subject with every single verse (the "I wished I could save her in some sort of time machine" part is about Anne, but the other verses have nothing to do with her).

I think you should read that book and then see what you think about the album. I don't know if it will change your mind about the album, but it'll give you a much better understanding of it. I know that it's really unfair that you need a book to understand and fully appreciate Aeroplane (it's like saying that you can't properly interpret the Bible without the aid of clergymen or historical scholars, but you should base your life on it anyway), but it's almost inevitable with Jeff Mangum's unique and surreal lyrical style.
So is this what that MySpace "What's a band I can review that has a SHORT discography" thing was all about? Well, with all the tattooed scarf people who vote these albums into your annual surveys, I guess NMH was an okay choice.

My thoughts: why not do Boston? They only have three more albums than NMH, they've been around for like 50 years, and unlike NMH, they never mention jizz by name in their lyrics.

On second thought: I don't like Neutral Milk Hotel because the guitars never sound like swooping glory jets. 0/10

"Kids today, with their long hair."

….Those were the last words on your Neutral Milk Hotel review.

Yes Mark, your time has come dickhead. Growing older definitely sucks.

Good luck with your site and all the fans you have.

I personally think your full of crap J

I liked the albums. I do own some scarves and i wear them when my neck is in danger of being chilly. When i listen to the album i think of things such as angry forum posts, mailmen who miss deliver packages of mine to my neighbors, and oatmeal. Is it me or do the people who hate this album express it in a very angry (perhaps bitter) manner? i guess its just me.

Suck my dick assholes,
One headed boy with fuzzy scarffffffffffff.
Two Headed Boy... GET IT!!!!

and if you don't, every boy has a penis!!!!!

I’m a bit surprised at this rating…I gotta admit I love this album to bits. What’s not to like? Most alternative singer/songwriters and bands are not exactly accomplished singers (Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Neil Young, the list goes on…). That’s part of the reason why we love’em. Gotta say, though, I like your reviews…you have an awesome sense of humour.
there's only one thing you can say about his singing: yelling at the top of your lungs for 3 minutes is NOT an appropriate way to play that otherwise wonderful song. he really doesn't yell otherwise, except in places where it counts (the "chorus" in oh, comely). he certainly sings loudly though, but it's neither aggravating nor in particularly bad taste. indeed, with such loooong melodies, wouldn't it help to have a lot of air in you?

as for the chord progressions, indeed, the title track has one of the most cliché, sappy, over-used harmonies in all of music. it just bores me: it doesn't offend me (the way i presume it does mark prindle), but it certainly leaves me wanting something more interesting. of course, to more virgin musical ears, this wouldn't matter. otherwise, even with the simple I-IV-V songs (king of carrot flowers pt. 1, a good amount of holland, 1945, etc), you can't complain. there's a LOT of amazing, stunning, and always innovative music that hides behind using these three simple chords, and the melodies and rhythm always make for an interesting listen. some of the songs here are genius (two-headed boy organizes a mess of notes, chords, and melodies into one, giant complex of a song). the instrumentals are gorgeous in their simplicity - oh so gorgeous!

i won't go into the lyrics much. yeah, i see the anne frank symbolism. yeah, it's obviously not a just a coherent concept album about her life. some lines/verses are truly poetic or thought-provoking, sometimes just vague. one thing i can say for certain: good or bad, insightful or not, it leaves you pondering the lyrics, something not many albums do.


For the most part, yeah, the Elephant Collective does consist of a bunch of jerks dicking around with Beach Boys fetishes (see: Of Montreal's Kevin Barnes).

But such a generalization sells The Olivia Tremor Control sooooo short. Black Foliage: Animation Music is truly one of the most mindblowingly complex "headphone pop albums" I've heard. Whose proverbial dick do I need to suck to getchoo to review them (only two studio albums + one singles/rarities collection).

Kurt Williams
I actually think Mangum's voice is the only thing that keeps some of the songs from being maudlin folk borefests. The chord progressions certainly aren't interesting enough to be affecting; Jeff's voice is the only thing giving the album any visceral edge whatsoever.

I found this album to be an acquired taste. Much like R.E.M.'s Murmur, I thought it was boring at first, but the impressionistic lyrics and subtle instrumental touches yielded emotional resonance with repeated listens. I still don't think it's "the greatest album of all time," but it's worthwhile.

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