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Yet Another What Similar Album Do You Recommend Question :)
October 18, 2010 2:54 PM   Subscribe

Similar Albums to Neutral Milk Hotel's In The Aeroplane Over The Sea

I had listened to NMH's In The Aeroplane Over The Sea back in college a few times. I never really got into it; I mostly skipped to my favorite songs and, right off the bat, I didn't like Two Headed Boy or In The Aeroplane Over The Sea.
Early this year, I was looking through my CD shelf and, by chance, this album fell on my foot and the corner bruised me a little. I saw it as sign from the Universe and played it from start to end.
And I have not been able to not listen to it at least twice a week for the last 10 months. Every song flows so beautifully from the last one until the breathtaking squeaking chair at the end...

The last time I got into an album really heavily like this was with both Dark Side Of The Moon and Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures...

Anyways, I don't mean to drag on and on but I just wanted to know what some of your recommendations are for a similar album to Aeroplane.
Additionally, if you were ever really into this album, what was the next album you got really into after this one? What places and doors did this album create for you or what other bands have you come to appreciate after this one?

I hope the question isn't too fuzzy...haha.
posted by fantodstic to Media & Arts (39 answers total) 98 users marked this as a favorite
 
A lot of people who like Neutral Milk Hotel like The Mountain Goats too. You would probably want to start with All Hail West Texas, The Sunset Tree, or Sweden. All his albums have a completely unique feeling to them, and there are a lot of them. You might never listen to anything else.
posted by wayland at 2:57 PM on October 18, 2010 [17 favorites]


You should check out the other highlights of the Elephant 6 collective, particularly Dusk at Cubist Castle by Oliva Tremor Contol. It's a good deal odder than Aeroplane, but has many of the same qualities (and musicians, IIRC).
posted by Bookhouse at 3:00 PM on October 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


If you haven't already given it a listen, try The Decemberists' The Hazards of Love. I recommend this somewhat based on genre and somewhat based on the flow concept. This album is definitely a rock opera, and tells an incredible, musically-fueled story.
posted by scwebd at 3:02 PM on October 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


a sample of albums i have to listen to from beginning to end, that i own on vinyl because they're such great complete works.


blonde redhead - melody of certain damaged lemons

neil young - harvest

belle & sebastian - fold your hands child you walk like a peasant

willie nelson - redheaded stranger, to lefty from willie

portishead - portishead


not yet owned on vinyl, but also can't listen to just a song or two because it's an entire work:

cursive - domestica, ugly organ, happy hollow
posted by nadawi at 3:04 PM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


On Avery Island, NMH's other LP.
posted by domnit at 3:07 PM on October 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


There are sadly not that many "perfect albums" anymore -- ones that you can listen to the entire thing, like this one.

And even fewer ones that sound like NMH that aren't made by the same people that were on Aeroplane.

Instead, here's my own random list of albums that can't not be listened all the way through:

Nick Drake - Pink Moon
Sonic Youth - Daydream Nation
Arcade Fire - Funeral
Blonde Redhead - Melody of Certain Damage Lemons (good call, nadawi)
The Knife - Silent Shout
Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca
Brian Eno - Another Green World
posted by Threeway Handshake at 3:16 PM on October 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yes, what wayland said -- the Mountain Goats. My favorite album is the sometimes lo-fi, sometimes higher-fi Coroner's Gambit, which has a variety of different styles and emotional timbres. But for something that hangs together as coherently as Aeroplane, you might like All Hail West Texas, which is a beautiful, sad, dry-heat record about loneliness and the slow-burn consequences of small bad decisions. Maybe the best summary of the album's overall theme is in this description of the boom-box uses to record it:

'All Hail West Texas' was recorded in central Iowa using the trusty Panasonic RX-FT500 and the occasional Marantz PMD 222. While there is seldom much to say about the deliberately primitive nature of the recordings we make, the strange case of the Panasonic RX-FT500 is worth considering for a moment or two. Bought at a Circuit City in Montclair, California in 1989 or thereabouts, its functioning used to suggest a combination of two technologies, one brutishly sophisticated and the other magnificently cheap. Its built-in condenser microphone didn't condense (that is, it didn't react to changes in volume by automatically contracting its diaphragm) unless the levels with which it found itself confronted were truly overwhelming, which never happened; meanwhile, oblivious to this tic of mass production, the machine's designers hadn't thought to situate the actual moving parts (that is, the gears) as far as cosmetically possible from this unusually sensitive microphone. The results were uncannily accurate representations of sound complemented and complicated by some pretty ferocious wheel-grind. Sometime around 1998, the Panasonic appeared to have breathed its last. When you'd push "Record," a large triangular piece of plastic just to the left of the spindles would begin jutting in and out of the view frame, bringing with it a clicking noise whose arrhythmic clatter could in no way be incorporated into any songs one might be trying to record on such a low-tech piece of equipment. In the summer of 2000 having written a few new songs that took place in Texas and being frustrated with the uniform sound of the Marantz, we hauled the Panasonic out of its corner and gave it a shot, just in case it might have repaired itself during the long time it had spent standing all alone near the window. The results are what you have with you now: the sound of a long-broken machine deciding, on its own and without the interference of repairmen or excessive prayer vigils, to function again. It is a painfully raw sound that can legitimately be thought of as a second performer on these otherwise unaccompanied recordings. Its inexplicable self-originating will to go on echoes some of the boneheaded ideas that motivate the people who populate these little songs. Some of us, when we're really sleepy or facing an unacceptable loss, imagine the hand of a person behind all this: an ornery little fellow who will have no sound without a second sound to obscure and pollute it, who is deeply mistrusting of singers in general, and who believes that whatever "signal-to-noise ratio" might mean, it can't be any good unless more value is placed on the latter of the two hyphenated terms. Of course the original signal is never actually anywhere near any recordings anywhere, but you all already know that. You have been sure of it for quite some time now. You see the proof everywhere. It is the reason you started reading these lines in the first place.
posted by Greg Nog at 3:18 PM on October 18, 2010 [19 favorites]


Also check out Black Sheep Boy by Okkervil River
posted by statsgirl at 3:20 PM on October 18, 2010


I bought NMH/ITAOTS on the same day I bought Built to Spill's Perfect From Now On and didn't really like either of them at first listen. Fast forward several years, re-listen, and now they both have the same sort of hold on me as you describe for ITAOTS. They're not particularly similar on the surface, I think, but both are epically great classics. I also really like Olivia Tremor Control.
posted by xueexueg at 3:24 PM on October 18, 2010


For E6 bands I find myself returning to The Minders' "Golden Street" more than anything else. It's got the shambly thing I hear in NMH, though it's a bit more Beatlesque.
posted by rhizome at 3:33 PM on October 18, 2010


Seconding The Decemberists' Hazards of Love album. Also, an overplayed oldie, but a damned good one: Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon. And for musical flow with a more worldly sound, Manu Chao's Clandestino album.

The Rum Diary's "Poisons That Save Lives" album might be a sound you're after as well. Also, The Magnetic Fields' "The Charm of the Highway Strip" has a bit of mellow quirky, with a traveling theme running through it, but the songs don't flow into each other like, say, The Decemberists' do.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:37 PM on October 18, 2010


As far as stuff that "sounds like NMH" (which, let's face it, they kind of inspired a lot of what "indie rock" is), I can't listen to Hometowns by The Rural Alberta Advantage without being all "dude, way to try to sound like NMH".

This is not a bad thing. I love that record.
posted by King Bee at 3:39 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wrong-Eyed Jesus by Jim White definitely gives me that feeling of being pulled into a different world. I always have to listen to the whole thing in one sitting.
posted by otolith at 3:44 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Slint's Spiderland. You have to listen to the whole album (have to) and there will be almost immediate replaying.
posted by grapesaresour at 3:50 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, and one of my favorite albums to listen all the way through is 49:00 by Paul Westerberg from the Replacements.

I was lucky to find it by accident when it came out in 2008, before it was pulled from MP3 stores because of a short cover medley. I really encourage you to hunt it down through grey channels.

The album was released as a single track, so all the way through is the only practical way to listen to it. Besides having fantastic songs, there are lots of snippets, musical sketches, transitions, and overlapping sounds, that make it a beautiful, cohesive collage.

Westerberg wrote and recorded the thing by himself, and it's a catharsis. He sings, "gotta get it out of the system," and the artistic energy seems to explode out of him too fast to fit into a linear set of tracks.

It's like Aeroplane: catchy tunes and weird sounds, great words, and a feverish personal expression.

There are a bunch of albums or bands with which I've had this kinds of obsessive stint (including In the Aeroplane Over the Sea), but I figured this was a good one to gush about. Do listen.
posted by domnit at 3:52 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am a huge fan of lot of the groups/artists already recommended above (Decemberists, Mountain Goats, Paul Westerberg) and agree that you should check them all out (and older Decemberists is good too! I will always love Castaways and Cutouts), but my rec for a band with a sound closest to NMH is definitely Beirut - check out The Flying Club Cup, especially the song "Nantes."
posted by naoko at 4:03 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Microphones - The Glow, pt. 2
posted by pollex at 4:26 PM on October 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Thank you guys so much for these answers! I like a lot of these suggestions (and some of them I've already munched on, but I'll have to revisit them, e.g., Blonde Redhead).

I love you Metafilter people :)
posted by fantodstic at 4:28 PM on October 18, 2010


Ooh, as a big fan of albums and a big indie nerd, I dig this question. I'm going to nth The Mountain Goats, but suggest you take a look at the albums Tallahassee and We Shall All Be Healed (and, perhaps, The Sunset Tree--but probably nothing newer than that). I'm also going to suggest Badly Drawn Boy--Born in the UK, and his earlier, The Hour of the Bewilderbeast. Also, Belle and Sebastian's If You're Feeling Sinister. Also, two suggestions that might sound slightly out of left field: Hefner's The Fidelity Wars (they've got a very different sound, none of the roughness of NMH, but it's a pretty perfect album) and The Avalanches Since I Left You.

Also, do check out On Avery Island by NMH. It's underrated. "Song Against Sex" is terrific, though.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:44 PM on October 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


You might like Rock Plaza Central's Are We Not Horses. It's, well, a lo-fi, weird, warm-sounding rock opera about a battle between mechanical horses and evil angels. Here's the first track.
posted by oinopaponton at 4:49 PM on October 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh, and as for this: Additionally, if you were ever really into this album, what was the next album you got really into after this one? What places and doors did this album create for you or what other bands have you come to appreciate after this one?

I was introduced to Neutral Milk Hotel in 2002, just a bit after high school graduation, to the dude that I'm now married to. He sent me a copy of "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" via AOL instant messenger, and once played it for me on acoustic guitar in my mom's bathroom, so you can imagine that I was quite smitten with both the band and the boy. After that, I moved on to the Magnetic Fields' 69 Love Songs (we were going through a rough patch at the time, so I listened to "I Think I Need a New Heart" over and over and over again) as well as quite a bit of Rilo Kiley's Take Offs and Landings and Mirah's You Think It's Like This but Really It's Like This and lots and lots of Bright Eyes' Fevers and Mirrors (an excellent album when you're an angsty, arty nineteen-year-old girl). Then, after a brief obsession with the White Stripes's Elephant upon its release in 2003, I plunged into a five year long obsession with The Mountain Goats. Seriously. It was nothing but the Mountain Goats (other than a brief, stoned, transcendental experience listening to the Velvet Underground's The Velvet Underground & Nico--I'd heard it before, of course, but never on pot). I would go to parties and drunkenly monologue about how John Darnielle was the greatest poet of our generation (to poets, mind you).

I still think that, sometimes, but even I got a bit sick of it. And all music for awhile. There was a stretch where I listened to nothing really, although I got mildly into Animal Collective's Strawberry Jam and Kate Nash's Made of Bricks, but not particularly passionately.

It took really twee music to get me out of it, specifically Tullycraft, who I had heard on some sampler years before. I finally bought a bunch of their albums and fell in love with Disenchanted Hearts Unite and Every Scene Needs a Center and that pretty much brings me to the present.

But seriously, watch out for those Mountain Goats, man. They really have the potential to ruin other music for you for awhile.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:13 PM on October 18, 2010 [10 favorites]


2nding 69 Love Songs. And though it's a bit more upbeat than most of the suggestions here, The Shins' Chutes Too Narrow is fantastic.
posted by randomname25 at 5:35 PM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I had a very similar experience where I downloaded ITAOTS in college, listened to it, and mostly didn't care for it. Then, while DJing my weekly radio program at the college station, I found a copy that someone had left in the disc changer and decided to play a random song off the album on the air as a sort of gag and give a review of the song when it ended.

I played the titular song and, upon being forced to listen to it more carefully than I had at first, I really liked it.

Shortly thereafter, I made this a running segment on the show where I'd listen to music I didn't initially like and review it. I had a lot of fun with it.

Anyway, I found out that I also liked The Walkmen, Wilco, and The Fiery Furnaces

Unrelated to the radio segment, I bet you'll like Daniel Johnston
posted by swellingitchingbrain at 5:45 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


So the Pixies went on a reunion tour in 2004 and I bought Wave of Mutilation to see what all the talking was about. A few days later I went stomping through the house, shouting "Why was I not informed of the Pixies?" My friends very carefully said, "Just so you don't throw another hissy fit, we're going to tell you about Neutral Milk Hotel, right now." So that's kind of a reverse recommendation for the Pixies.

Also, earlier this year, this excellent comment caused me to check out Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and I listened to their debut album with an obsession similar to ITAOTS, but maybe not quite as long lasting.
posted by A dead Quaker at 5:48 PM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's not exactly the same thing, but I recommend you check out Sparklehorse, specifically Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot. There's something of the same experimental exuberance to it, though Linkous leaned more towards alt-country.

Also, Mercury Rev - Deserter's Songs.

The National - Boxer.

And why not go for something equally excellent from days gone by? Like The Gun Club - Fire of Love.
posted by Kafkaesque at 6:00 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Other Mountain Goats albums worth listening to repeatedly forever:

Sweden.

Full Force Galesburg.

I would urge you to check out his last three albums as well. Life of the World to Come hangs together thematically almost as well as All Hail West Texas. Heretic Pride is his spottiest but has some winning moments. Get Lonely is like the quintessential breakup album of all human history.

Also check out the following minor releases which you will frankly only find on torrent sites: Jack and Faye, Devil in the Shortwave, and New Asian Cinema. Especially New Asian Cinema.

Someone else said something along these lines, but I'm going to repeat it: if it grabs you the way it grabs some people, it's possible to need to listen to the Mountain Goats every day for a few years in a row.
posted by kensington314 at 6:51 PM on October 18, 2010 [3 favorites]




The Antlers, Hospice.
posted by naju at 7:44 PM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, if we're talking about amazing albums that grab you from start to finish, you do know about Jeff Buckley's Grace, right? Also, Leonard Cohen doesn't really have the same sound as NMH at all, but his excellent songwriting often reminds me of The Mountain Goats (since this thread has turned into a NMH/Mountain Goats lovefest (hooray!)). I think The Future and I'm Your Man are quite coherent as albums, although you have to get past the 1980s production style on I'm Your Man. None of those really have the NMH sound, though...but they're great!
posted by aka burlap at 7:50 PM on October 18, 2010


Sufjan Stevens - 'Illinois'
The Microphones - 'The Glow, Pt. 2'
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - 'Clap Your Hands Say Yeah', 'Some Loud Thunder' (incredibly underrated - maybe just skip past the first track which (although brilliant) has a really off-putting distortion effect)
Pavement - 'Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain'

Not an album per se but an incredible mixtape by some incredibly talented indie producers - Continuous Monument - I recommend it to everyone who I talk about music with.
posted by rigby99 at 8:20 PM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Shut up and get out of my head, PhoBWanKenobi. We got some shared musical history right there.

Anyhoo, I love the Mountain Goats lots and Peter Hughes knows my livejournal name, and lately I have had some good times with Phosphorescent. Phosphorescent has some of the heavily instrumented shambliness that I love about NMH, and daresay he's a little yelpy, too.

"hear me Alabama I was never meant to carry no shame."

posted by redsparkler at 11:33 PM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


At any rate, for anybody, I strongly suggest installing the last.fm client and signing up with them. Don't listen to music from the client - listen to your library in iTunes (or whatever music progam you use, it works with many) and let it "scrobble." After a while, go back to the site and check out its recommendations. It works really well and I've found quite a bit of stuff I hadn't known about. Also their live show recs are really nice too.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 6:38 AM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


When I was in college and thought I was super hip, I used to say that every baby born should be given a copy of In the Aeroplane Over The Sea at birth. While I don't say this out loud anymore (writing it here doesn't count!), I still totally believe this.

To answer your question: If we're not just talking about awesome albums, but about awesome albums that feel fundamentally cohesive, and are made up of songs that ebb, flow, seem to climax, and then leave you wonderfully spent by the end, I would recommend these four off the top of my head: Ladies and Gentlemen, We are Floating in Space by Spiritualized, Perfect From Now On by Built to Spill, Bee Thousand by Guided by Voices, and Control by Pedro the Lion.

Also, regardless of what you think you like, take everyone's advice and listen to anything and everything by the Mountain Goats. My boyfriend listens to stuff like Gwar, Dream Theater, and a lot of stuff that makes me think of vampires for some inexplicable reason, but even he loves the Mountain Goats.
posted by eunoia at 9:40 AM on October 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Nthing Avery Island.

They're not in the same genre as NMH (More Glam Rock), but I would add:

Roxy Music - Roxy Music - [This was mentioned in the song Me and the Major by Belle and Sebastian ("I remember Roxy Music in '72")]
T. Rex - Electric Warrior
Brian Eno - Here Come the Warm Jets
Brian Eno - Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)
Pink Mountaintops - Axis of Evol [This is more psychedelic/shoegaze, but still extremely addictive. I still have trouble only listening to one song.]

You also want the next album that gripped me the way the ITAOTS did? Mine was Lonesome Crowded West by Modest Mouse. That album is still the kind of album that if I'm listening to a shuffle of my entire library, I'll stop the shuffle and listen to the entire album. YMMV.

I'll think of more later I'm sure. ;)
posted by schyler523 at 1:54 PM on October 19, 2010


Billy Bragg and Wilco's Mermaid Avenue crept into my playlists for a few years solid.

Another album which is uneven but mostly brilliant is Stephen Merritt's Showtunes. The song about the vengeful storks and stillborn babies is one of my favorites.

PhoB, RedSparkler -- join the hive mind. We have jellybeans and we are legion.
posted by benzenedream at 11:19 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ooh, RedSparkler mentioned Phosphorescent!

I loved their album To Willie, a collection of Willie Nelson covers. It is magnificent! It was stuck in my head for months and still enjoys a permanent rotation on my iPod.
posted by schyler523 at 9:03 AM on October 20, 2010




Wow...I will second like 90% of the mentioned music as being awesome, which is rather unusual given the wide variety.

I almost hate to do this seeing as The Mountain Goats discography is long enough, but there are quite a few live recordings of The Mountain Goats on archive.org. It's fun to listen to John talk between the sets.

I'd also like to suggest The Unicorns, particularly "Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone" and Islands, which has some of the folks from The Unicorns in it.
posted by nTeleKy at 1:32 PM on October 29, 2010


I've been digging this track Be Calm by fun. that I found on this Tsururadio playlist; I just heard the rest of their album Aim and Ignite. I'll admit that it's early to say this, but it's way up there. Also Frightened Rabbit has lots of good stuff (Modern Leper from "The Midnight Organ Fight" is a good start). And I don't think I've ever written a post that left me feeling more like Jackie Harvey.
posted by nTeleKy at 9:34 PM on November 1, 2010


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