Recommend me some good Elephant6 Collective music
March 17, 2006 12:34 AM   Subscribe

I've just discovered the fantastic Neutral Milk Hotel and, after some investigation, found that they're part of the Elephant 6 collective. There's a lot of bands in that - where to start investigating further? What's really worth a listen?
posted by TheDonF to Media & Arts (31 answers total)
Th ones I've heard something about are: The Apples in Stereo, Beulah, Dressy Bessy, Olivia Tremor Control, and Of Montreal. I can't speak for quality, but those are the ones that jump out as more well known.
posted by MadamM at 1:21 AM on March 17, 2006

The page you link to has a ton of side projects listed, but the main bands (as I see it) are NMH, Apples in Stereo, Beulah, Elf Power, and Olivia Tremor Control. The Apples are more straight up indie-pop, and so are Beulah. OTC are very psych oriented to say the least. Keeping track of all the side projects and collaberations is difficult, but usually worthwhile. What I've listened to on the E6 mp3 page (on the sidebar of your link) has been pretty representative of the bands.
posted by jaysus chris at 1:23 AM on March 17, 2006

The bands listed in the thread so far are definitely the most famous E6ers, and probably the best. None of them resemble Neutral Milk Hotel very much, but that's the nature of Elephant 6.

Hawk and a Hacksaw (in the "extended family") are a duo - one-man-band style drum & squeezebox, and violin. The drummer was a member of Neutral Milk Hotel. They play instrumental klezmer/gypsy/Dirty Three-style stuff, and of any of the E6ers, they're the ones whose texture reminds me most of NMH, although the resemblance basically stops there.
posted by Marquis at 1:46 AM on March 17, 2006

One more vote for Apples in Stereo.
posted by nadawi at 2:02 AM on March 17, 2006

I'd check out, in order: Beulah (for my money, the most consistent E6 band, but they've got their detractors -- When Your Heartstrings Break is where to start, then just follow them chronologically -- their evolution is fascinating, at least to me), The Apples in Stereo (almost pop to a fault esp. later in their career, but Tone Soul Evolution is a crowning achievement), Elf Power (they've got some really great albums -- try A Dream in Sound, try Creatures, or try The Winter is Coming, my faves in order), and The Gerbils (I'd say they're a rougher NMH -- Are You Sleepy is smashing, Battle for Electricity great too). OTC is fun enough, but they go a bit off the deep end for me too often. I never really got into Of Montreal or Dressy Bessy, though I've heard good things about them. Ladybug Transistor was great live, but I never owned their stuff.

Check out the book about recording Aeroplane. It's a must-read, I think.

You're about to open the door to some amazing, rewarding music. Have a great time. Those bands still blow me away. I envy you! Oh, would that I could get to discover them again.
posted by incessant at 2:39 AM on March 17, 2006

I woke up every morning to "The Discovery of a World inside the Moone" by Apples in Stereo for several months last year. The first track, "Go", lent itself to this well.

I'd fall asleep to "Her Wallpaper Reverie" (I'm listening to it now) or Aeroplane.

Great, Great, music.
posted by blasdelf at 3:44 AM on March 17, 2006

E6 doesn't just have one style. Dressy Bessy (joyous pop), f'rinstance, is about as far from Major Organ (twee improv) as you can get. So what do you like about NMH? Even In The Aeroplane ... is quite different from On Avery Island.

I've seen most of the bands live, and have nearly all the E6 and related albums. I'm probably not in a very good position to recommend any, since E6-associated music has been at least 50% of what I've listened to over the last 10 years. Sad, isn't it?
posted by scruss at 4:13 AM on March 17, 2006

this is the best site for elephant 6 stuff. the e6 collective is one of the most exciting developments in american music that I can recall (at least in my allegedly brief lifespan).

if you like Neutral Milk Hotel, then maybe give The Music Tapes a listen. it's a one-man recording project by Julian Koster, who played a lot of the really weird instruments in Neutral Milk Hotel. others you might like are Olivia Tremor Control (pick up Black Foliage: Amination Music volume 1 if you will change your life!) and maybe old to middle school Of Montreal, like maybe The Gay Parade (my favorite) or The Bedside Drama: A Petite Tragedy. you should also try everything else!
posted by mcsweetie at 4:50 AM on March 17, 2006

oh yeah, don't miss the mp3 section on!
posted by mcsweetie at 4:52 AM on March 17, 2006

I would call Apples in Stereo more like Post Punk or Power Pop than indie-pop. Much more akin to Q & Not U than anything else, I'd think.

Olivia Tremor, Elf Power, Apples, of course, are my main suggestions. I had heard of this collective before, however I didn't realise their connection. I'm definitely going to check that out.
posted by Lockeownzj00 at 5:01 AM on March 17, 2006

Music from the Unrealized Film Script, Dusk at Cubist Castle by Olivia Tremor Control. After NMH, it's the next best thing from Elephant 6.
posted by Espy Gillespie at 5:14 AM on March 17, 2006

I also recommend Dusk at Cubist Castle and Black Foliage Animation music by Olivia Tremor Control. Lots of bands get described as sounding "Beatlesque," but some of the OTC songs sound more like what The Beatles might have done if they had kept recording psych-pop than almost anything I've heard.

I quite enjoy Satanic Panic in the Attic by Of Montreal as well. And I dig Beulah, but don't know their albums too well.

And remember to go here for your live NMH needs.
posted by ludwig_van at 5:24 AM on March 17, 2006

I really like NMH, but I was very disappointed by the Apples in Stereo album I picked up. It just didn't seem interesting or innovative in anything like the NMH. Of course the style is different, but what I'm saying specifically is that the band seemed derivative of the Beach Boys, without the genius, and therefore not very interesting. I'd try one of the others first. I assume you saw the recent FPP on NMH. More good reading in thread.
posted by OmieWise at 5:42 AM on March 17, 2006

Some of them are "slicker-sounding" than others, so it depends on what you're looking for. For example, to me, Apples in Stereo is okay in small doses but they can get too poppy and overproduced and Beatlesque. Though I do like some of the Minders stuff (especially their album "Cul-de-Sacs and Dead Ends"), and they're pretty slick, as well as "A Dream in Sound" by Elf Power (can't stand their other albums though). I prefer the buzz and dirtiness of the Music Tapes and the Gerbils.
posted by unknowncommand at 6:04 AM on March 17, 2006

No one has mentioned Marbles yet -- a sort of side project from the lead singer of the Apples in Stereo. It's fun, playful pop -- try to find the song "Dracula"
posted by Robot Johnny at 6:30 AM on March 17, 2006

To dig deeper, Olivia Tremor Control splintered into Circulatory System and The Sunshine Fix. Both are excellent bands in their own right.
posted by rabbitsnake at 6:46 AM on March 17, 2006

I'm not a huge E6 fan ('cept for NMH), but if you haven't heard the (non E6) The Decemberists, you should check them out. They're about the closest you can get to NMH and in some people's opinions (mine included), they surpassed their predecessor.

All of their albums are available on for cheap.
posted by dobbs at 7:03 AM on March 17, 2006

boo decemberists suck etc.
posted by Marquis at 7:15 AM on March 17, 2006

The closest thing I've heard to NMH is David and the Citizens, specifically the song "Now She Sleeps in a Box in the Good Soil of Denmark" although they certainly aren't part of the E6 collective...
posted by cyphill at 7:27 AM on March 17, 2006

I'll second what others have said about Apples in Stereo. They're decent, usally kind of hit or miss, and best in small doses. If you are looking for a band with the same kind of sound as NMH, you can skip them.

Beluah is enjoyable, catchy, but pretty typical and defintely non offensive. They have some really cute songs.

Overall I'd say the best band on the list, (besides NMH, of course) is in the extended family: Of Monteral
posted by nuclear_soup at 7:32 AM on March 17, 2006

Note that the book incessant refers to, Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (33 1/3) (33 1/3), was written by Kim Cooper, who is an active mefi user. (Hi, Kim!)
posted by jjwiseman at 8:11 AM on March 17, 2006

Beulah's The coast is never clear is (nearly) perfect.

When your heartstrings break is also excellent, and the others (Handsome western state, Yoko, and the demo version of the latter, Demo) are pretty good too.

imo, of course.
posted by Utilitaritron at 9:17 AM on March 17, 2006

Ehh, if you started with NMH, prepare to be disappointed by the rest of Elephant 6. I mean, some of the acts are good (I really dig the Apples in Stereo and the Minders, for example; Beulah's lovely and Of Montreal and Dressy Bessy are fun, if a little cloying. On the other hand, I find Olivia Tremor Control a gigantic yawn-fest), but Aeroplane is a time-period-defining indie-rock tour-de-force. But brace yourself for a bit of a letdown there.
posted by willpie at 9:32 AM on March 17, 2006

Just another voice chiming in to say one of these things (NMH) is not like the others (the rest of E6). Your bases are pretty much covered in this thread, at least in terms of the main or more popular bands in E6. Personally, I can't stand Of Montreal, but to each their own.

If you like the E6 concept, you might consider looking at current and former bands on the Saddle Creek label. Cursive would probably be your best bet for a match with NMH, but there are numerous other notables.

Other bands outside of E6 try:
  • The Decemberists
  • The Tiger Lillies
  • Modest Mouse
  • Wolf Parade
  • At the Drive In
  • Placebo
  • Blur
They aren't all great matches to NMH. The Decemberists are similar in style, but are the Tiger Lillies lite. Modest Mouse has some similarities, but Wolf Parade is Isaac Brock's, the lead singer of Modest Mouse, love child. Placebo and Blur are more Brit Pop, but there are similarities in lyrics and subject matter. I can't put my finger on why I'm adding At the Drive In, but it's worth a shot. (Hard to give recommendations without knowing what you like about NMH, so this is, of course, an imperfect list.)
posted by sequential at 9:47 AM on March 17, 2006

You are replicating a quest I took a few years ago. As much as I enjoy many of the E6 collective albums on their own merits, to me nothing I've found there as emotionally engaging as NMH. The problem with recommending an "if you like this, you'll like that" band is that I don't know what attracted you to NMH to begin with. If it was the brokenness, the plaintiveness, the on-the-edge-of-falling-apartness, the surreal lyrics: Try Syd Barrett's two solo albums. If it was the death/alternate life themes, the hope-shines-through-the-mourning feel, the ramshackle twisted-Americana sound with odd, somewhat homespun-sounding instrumentation: Try Camper Van Beethoven's last two albums, Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart and Key Lime Pie.
posted by ROTFL at 10:44 AM on March 17, 2006

what they said. you're definitely starting out at the peak of the mountain, but... it's a hell of a beautiful walk down to the foothills. beulah, dressy bessy, of montreal, elf power... you can't go wrong.

You might also like:

• Mercury Rev
• Sparklehorse
• The Boy Least Likely To
• The Mountain Goats
• Adem
posted by ab3 at 11:40 AM on March 17, 2006

ludwig_van et al: you're using the wrong B'esque word for E6; it's Brianesque, as the early E6ers were all Beach Boys fans.

The Late B P Helium can be fun, too.
posted by scruss at 3:53 PM on March 17, 2006

Thanks, incessant, for the kind plug for my Aeroplane book (which, btw, I'll be reading from Saturday after next at Vroman's in Pasadena, CA, with Ben Sisario reading from his new 33 1/3 Pixies tome).

There's some marvelous music across the E6 spectrum, probably a band for every taste. This newish and very active blog that just hopped off myspace is a good place to start exploring, with interviews, news, live videos and audio samples for many bands in the community. There's also the E6 Townhall, a message board given to silliness, but with informative archives.
posted by Scram at 11:55 PM on March 17, 2006

Response by poster: Cool, thanks for the many replies; soooo much new music to explore over the coming months. I've decided to start with OTC and Beulah, then Apples In Stereo and Of Montreal, then the rest. The 33 1/3 book has been ordered and RSS feeds subscribed to. Cheers, all.
posted by TheDonF at 4:33 AM on March 18, 2006

if you haven't heard the (non E6) The Decemberists, you should check them out. They're about the closest you can get to NMH and in some people's opinions (mine included), they surpassed their predecessor.

I don't know about "the closest you can get to NMH." I mean, I've seen The Decemberists live many times, and I even moderate their guitar tab forum. While they have some aesthetic connections with NMH, I don't think they actually sound too much like them. As for surpassing them, maybe one day, but I definitely don't think so at this point. Colin Meloy never seems to acknowledge being an NMH fan, though, but I guess that makes sense as the two were compared perhaps a little too often early on in the D-ists career.

Note that the book incessant refers to, Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (33 1/3) (33 1/3), was written by Kim Cooper, who is an active mefi user. (Hi, Kim!)

Oh wow, cool. I just finished the book yesterday, and I loved it.

ludwig_van et al: you're using the wrong B'esque word for E6; it's Brianesque, as the early E6ers were all Beach Boys fans.

Well sure, but that doesn't preclude them from sounding like The Beatles. Although of course there are some extremely Beach Boys moments as well (on Hideaway by OTC), for example).
posted by ludwig_van at 8:26 AM on March 19, 2006

Oh yeah, and "Return of the Frog Queen" by Jeremy Enigk was the old "In the Aeroplane...".
posted by unknowncommand at 6:42 PM on March 27, 2006

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