Aun Music Archive #15: One Classic Album from the 90s & Two Albums I’ve Never Heard Before

Neutral Milk Hotel — “In The Aeroplane Over the Sea” (1998)

Few indie albums of the past twenty-five years are as well-revered as Neutral Milk Hotel’s 1998 release. It’s also a bit polarizing, given those who do not find it to be a masterpiece are often highly critical of the work. It even spawned a band that plays nothing but Neutral Milk Hotel covers on ukelele (Neutral Uke Hotel) and numerous meme videos on YouTube. One such “remaster” is available on Bandcamp: https://remusters.bandcamp.com/album/in-the-aeroplane-over-the-sea-2020-remaster

This album isn’t the easiest to classify outside of a generic “indie rock” label. Elements of psychedelic rock, lo-fi, and Eastern European music help create quite a unique sound for what would otherwise be a fairly basic indie rock album. The lyrics range from being quite brilliant to seemingly obfuscated, crude, and a bit pretentious at times, with the brilliancy being much more pervasive throughout the album. The lyrics of “Holland, 1945” utilize numerous visual cues to portray certain imagery during the tail end of World War II. Here’s the first verse:

The only girl I’ve ever loved
Was born with roses in her eyes
But then they buried her alive
One evening, 1945
With just her sister at her side
And only weeks before the guns
All came and rained on everyone
Now she’s a little boy in Spain
Playing pianos filled with flames
On empty rings around the sun
All sing to say my dream has come

Other songs are much more abstract and crude, including “Communist Daughter”:

Sweet communist, the communist daughter
Standing on the sea-weed water
Semen stains the mountain tops
Semen stains the mountain tops

With coca leaves along the border
Sweetness sings from every corner
Cars careening from the clouds
The bridges burst and twist around
And wanting something warm and moving
Bends towards herself, the soothing
Proves that she must still exist
She moves herself about her fist

There’s a mixture of socialist, Judeo-Christian, and magical imagery. Is this person deceased and joining the afterlife? Are they some sort of God or Goddess and that’s why they can walk on water? Is it just a dream? Is it about rebirth? I could probably make a case for this song being a critique of Stalinism even though I highly doubt that’s the case. It’s well-written and evokes specific imagery, though. If one believes Genius.com, it’s about the struggle between reproductive rights and morality and utilizes the Fascism vs. Communism battle of the 1920s through 1940s as a comparison.

Do a lot of hipsters and pretentious people like this album? Yes. Even a pretentious hipster can get a music choice correct from time to time, and this is one of those cases. While I wouldn’t rank it in a Top 10 albums of the 90s, it would definitely make a top 10 albums of 1998. It’s influence on later indie rock cannot be understated. Definitely check it out!

Nullsleep — “Click Beep Click” (2000)

Nullsleep is a chiptune / EDM artist from New York City, with an undergraduate engineering education. Much of Nullsleep’s music is produced using actual NES and Gameboy hardware. Quite an impressive body of work!

“Click Beep Click” is an early EP, seemingly the second official release by Nullsleep. It contains three interesting tracks that’s good for an occasional listen, but nothing stands out as overly impressive yet. I’d start elsewhere if you are new to Nullsleep. If you are already a fan, still check it out. It’s completely listenable, just not on the same level as the bulk of albums covered in this series.

Neko Case — “The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You” (2013)

My first exposure to Neko Case was her cover of a Tom Waits classic, “Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis”. As a bit of a Tom Waits purist, many covers just fail to impress me. Neko Case’s cover captured the emotions of the original, with her much more crystal clear but still quite bluesy voice [Youtube version here]. Afterwards, I obtained about a half-dozen Neko Case albums. This is the first one I’ve listened to from start-to-finish.

Neko Case has a unique voice and quite good writing ability, as demonstrated throughout this album. The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You is an autobiographical take on her most difficult and dark period of life. It’s definitely not a country or pop album. Not really an alternative rock album either. It’s somewhere in between all 3 of those. Some tracks even have punk rock or gospel influence, with her vocals always rising to the occasion despite the specific genres at play.

It’s one of the most accessible albums covered so far. If you’re into alternative rock or country and want something with more substance than radio fare, definitely check this album out!

Rankings:

  1. Tom Waits — “Mule Variations” (1999)
  2. Smashing Pumpkins — “Siamese Dream” (1993)
  3. Aphex Twin — ”Richard D James Album” (1995)
  4. Tori Amos — “Little Earthquakes” (1992)
  5. Tom Waits — “Real Gone”(2004)
  6. Venetian Snares — Rossz Csillag Allat Született (2005)
  7. Portishead — ”Dummy” (1994)
  8. Boards of Canada — “Music Has the Right to Children” (1998)
  9. Tricky — Maxinquaye (1995)
  10. Frank Zappa — “Hot Rats” (1969)
  11. The Postal Service — “Give Up” (2003)
  12. The Polyphonic Spree — “Live from Austin TX” (2004)
  13. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds — “Tender Prey” (1988)
  14. Rush — “A Farewell to Kings” (1977)
  15. Bjork — “Post” (1995)
  16. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds — “Murder Ballads” (1996)
  17. Sufjan Stevens — “Illinois” (2005)
  18. Neko Case — “The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You” (2013)
  19. Neutral Milk Hotel — In The Aeroplane Over The Sea (1998)
  20. Rizomagic — “Voltaje Raizal” (2021)
  21. Chlopcy Kontra Basia — “Oj Tak!” (2013)
  22. Prefuse 73 — The Failing Institute of Drums & Other Percussion (2021)
  23. Ani Difranco — “Little Plastic Castle” (1998)
  24. Subtle — A New White (2004)
  25. Amon Tobin — “Bricolage” (1997)
  26. Elliot Smith — “Figure 8” (2000)
  27. Tatvamasi — “Parts of the Eternity” (2013)
  28. Aesop Rock — “Labor Days” (2001)
  29. MF Doom — “MM..Food” (2004)
  30. Fiona Apple — ”Tidal” (1996)
  31. Kahil El’Zabar & David Murray — “Spirit Groove” (2020)
  32. Leonard Cohen — “You Want it Darker” (2016)
  33. Alina Bzhezhinska — “Inspiration” (2018)
  34. 44 Leningrad — “St. Ihlow” (1998)
  35. Warren Zevon — “Excitable Boy” (1978)
  36. GZA — “Liquid Swords” (1995)
  37. Stereolab — “Emperor Tomato Ketchup” (1996)
  38. Sunny Day Real Estate-”How It Feels to Be Something On” (1998)
  39. KMFDM — ”Nihil” (1995)
  40. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds — “Ghosteen” (2019)
  41. Dr. Octagon — ” Dr. Octagonecologyst” (1996)
  42. LCD Soundsystem — “Sound of Silver” (2007)
  43. Architecture in Helsinki — “Fingers Crossed” (2004)
  44. Lucia Cifarelli — “I Am Eye” (2021)
  45. Incubus — S.C.I.E.N.C.E. (1997)
  46. Ol’ Dirty Bastard — “Return to the 36 Chambers” (1995)
  47. Atari Teenage Riot — “Burn, Berlin, Burn” (1997)
  48. Godspeed You! Black Emperor — “G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END!” (2021)
  49. Yann Tiersen — “Kerber” (2021)
  50. Skalpel — “Skalpel” (2004)
  51. Asheron’s Call 2: Legions Preorder Promo CD (2005)
  52. 44 Leningrad — Klub Livestream 2022–01–22 (2022)
  53. Jamiroquai — “Travelling Without Moving” (1996)
  54. Pearl Jam — “Vitalogy” (1994)
  55. Busdriver — “Fear of a Black Tangent” (2005)
  56. Mogwai — “As The Love Continues” (2021)
  57. Butt Trumpet — “Primitive Enema” (1994)
  58. My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult — ”Confessions of a Knife” (1990)
  59. Nancy Griffith — “Storms” (1989)
  60. Nullsleep — “Click Beep Click” (2000)

*NOTE: We’ve yet to cover an album that I wouldn’t recommend, so even #60 is still an above average, recommended album!*

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Aun Collective

Aun Collective

We are a game preservationist, archivist, design and writing collective, focusing on multiplayer and massively multiplayer games. Also music preservation!