Hearing Postmemory

Anne Frank in Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane over the Sea

Authored by: Michael Spitzer

The Routledge Companion to Popular Music Analysis

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138683112
eBook ISBN: 9781315544700
Adobe ISBN:


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Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane over the Sea (henceforth Aeroplane) is a 1998 lo-fi album which oddly features Anne Frank. 1 It was the band’s second and last album, and Neutral Milk Hotel broke up shortly after the departure of Jeff Mangum, its psychologically tortured lead singer and writer. Despite the unusual connection with Frank, the album seemed at the time of release to be an otherwise unexceptional contribution to 1990s indie rock, and it received a lukewarm reception. The story could have ended there, except that, upon its re-issue in 2005, Aeroplane was dramatically reassessed, Pitchfork awarding it a perfect 10 score (upgraded from its original 8.7) and fourth position in its list of 100 best albums of the 90s (above Pavement and Nirvana). The reforming of the band in 2013 in order to tour Aeroplane worldwide served only to enhance the prestige and mythology around the album. We are also coming to appreciate its formative influence upon post-millennial indie; for instance, it provided the template for Arcade Fire’s Funeral, also with Merge Records. 2

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