The band Neutral Milk Hotel only recorded two albums before its lead guitarist and songwriter, Jeff Mangum, retreated from the public eye. Yet their second album, In the Aeroplane over the Sea (1998), remains one of the most critically acclaimed albums in independent music. Magnet magazine named it the best album of 1993-2003, ahead of both Nirvana’s In Utero and Radiohead’s OK Computer.
Aeroplane is widely thought to be a concept album about Anne Frank. Songs such “Holland, 1945”–which muses about an alternate reality where Frank survived the war–betray an intense fascination with her diary and her life. Mangum’s idiosyncratic voice and psychedelic folk music may make for an unlikely tribute to Anne Frank, but it is often as haunting as the Diary itself.
After the release and unexpected success of Aeroplane, Mangum largely disappeared from the music scene, making occasional surprise appearances at small concert venues. You can hear recordings of one such concert on the website InternationalTapes.com. If you’ve never heard Mangum’s songwriting before–and especially if you already have–go download these mp3s now.