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Music / In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

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And one day we will die, and our ashes will fly
From the aeroplane over the sea
But for now, we are young, let us lay in the sun
And count every beautiful thing we can see

In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (1998) is the second album released by American indie rock band Neutral Milk Hotel. It was recorded in the at the time newly formed Pet Sounds Studio, named after the lauded classic by The Beach Boys, featuring the eclectic instrumentation and bizarre lyricism that the band would be known for.

At the time of its release, the album received lukewarm reception as the masses didn't really find it to be anything to write home about.

Then the Internet came.

In the blink of an eye, ITAOTS received the Colbert Bump note  to end them all, being pulled from obscurity and becoming one of the most celebrated indie rock albums of all time, especially due to the album gaining a massive cult following on 4chan's /mu/ board. It's also acknowledgeable due to the endless memes that have stemmed from the album's art or lyrics. In fact, these memes have almost overshadowed the real album itself.


However, this album's sudden burst in popularity was just as detrimental to the band as it was beneficial. Eventually music press wouldn't leave the band (especially frontman Jeff Mangum) alone, and the depression of his thoughts constantly swirling around his obsession caused him to have a nervous breakdown, which caused the band to split in 1999, only to have a ITAOTS reunion tour in fall 2013 and announce their final tour for spring 2015.



  1. "The King of Carrot Flowers Pt. 1" (2:00)
  2. "The King of Carrot Flowers Pts. 2 and 3" (3:06)
  3. "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" (3:22)
  4. "Two-Headed Boy" (4:26)
  5. "The Fool" (1:53)
  6. "Holland, 1945" (3:15)
  7. "Communist Daughter" (1:57)
  8. "Oh Comely" (8:18)
  9. "Ghost" (4:08)
  10. Untitled (2:16)
  11. "Two-Headed Boy Pt. 2" (5:13)

In the aeroplane over the tropes:

  • Album Title Drop: The page quote.
  • Call-Back: "Two Headed Boy Pt. 2" references "Two Headed Boy" towards the end.
  • Concept Album: Very often considered to be one about Anne Frank and the Holocaust. Whether it is or not is a topic that we probably shouldn't get into.
  • Dark Reprise: "Two-Headed Boy pt. 2" is a lot darker than "pt. 1."
  • Design Student's Orgasm: A collaboration between Jeff Mangum and Chris Bilheimer, it resembles an old-timey Coney Island postcard.
  • Doo-Wop Progression: Used in the title track.
  • Epic Rocking: "Oh Comely" is over 8 minutes long, but largely consists of Jeff Mangum accompanied with just an acoustic guitar.
  • The Faceless: On the cover, a large hole has been cut out where the woman's head should be.
  • Fading into the Next Song: "King of Carrot Flowers pt. 1" -> "King of Carrot Flowers pts. 2 and 3," "Two-Headed Boy" -> "The Fool," "Communist Daughter" -> "Oh Comely," and "Ghost" -> track 10 -> "Two-Headed Boy pt. 2" all do this.
  • Grief Song: Much of the album, which supposedly backfired badly for Mangum when singing about it didn't actually help him handle it.
  • Hidden Track: Sort of. "Oh Comely" includes part of an unreleased track named "Goldaline" at the end, though it's usually considered a part of the song proper.
  • Instrumental: "The Fool"; the untitled tenth track.
  • Location Song: "Holland, 1945" alludes to the life of Anne Frank, who lived in Amsterdam until she and her family were arrested and deported by the Nazis in 1944.
  • Loudness War: This album is really clipped for a folk album, with a dynamic range rating of DR6 and a Replay Gain value of -9.80 dB. The 2009 vinyl appears to have been sourced from the same master as the CD. This may be a case of digital distortion being used intentionally (the album actually credits "white noise" as a musical instrument), but it's still really disorienting at first.
  • Mohs Scale of Lyrical Hardness: In about the 6-8 range. There's no gory imagery or swearing, but the sexual imagery and themes of the holocaust push it up here.
    • Some songs would be a 4, such as "King of Carrot Flowers Pt. 1" or "In the Aeroplane Over The Sea" if the lyrics weren't so unsettling and strange.
  • No Punctuation Period: The insert for the album writes the lyrics as one giant run-on sentence.
  • Not Christian Rock: "King Of Carrot Flowers Pt. 2" starts off with the lines "I love you Jesus Christ". Many people confuse this for a Christian rock song. Notice that a part of the lyrics for this song is absent from the booklet, with this message being there instead: "a song for an old friend a song for a new friend and now a song for jesus christ and since this seems to confuse people i'd like to simply say that i mean what i sing although the theme of endless endless on this album is not based on any religion but more in the belief that all things seem to contain a white light within them that i see as eternal."
  • No Title: Track 10, sometimes referred to as "The Penny Arcade in California".
  • Painting the Medium: The final line of "Two-Headed Boy pt. 2" (and by extension, the album) is "But don't hate her when she gets up to leave." Immediately afterwards, Mangum audibly puts down his guitar and leaves the room.
  • Recycled In Space: Anne Frank...ON FREUD!
  • Studio Chatter: You can very faintly hear someone yell “Holy shit!” at the end of “Oh Comely.” According to Word of God, this is because Mangum had gone into the recording booth for a sound check, but decided in the moment to perform the entire song and did it perfectly in one take.
  • Title Track: The third track.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: A lot of tracks on this album have only three or four chords ("King of Carrot Flowers Pts. 1-3," "Ghost," "Oh Comely," and the title track, just to name a few.)
  • Unplugged Version: An odd case; there are very few electric or electronic instruments on the album, but all those acoustic instruments are fed through enough distortion to make the album very loud.
  • We All Die Someday: The title track acknowledges this and notes on how we shouldn't let that one thing keep us down, and that there's so much beauty in life to see before it's too late.


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