Saturday, February 09, 2008

A Celebration of Sorts (brought to you by Gold Sounds)

So apparently tomorrow is the 10 year anniversary of Neutral Milk Hotel's album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, which is undoubtedly one of the best records that's been released since, like, I was born. I know some of you who read this blog like the album. Also, apparently Stephen Colbert likes it, which is kind of amazing:

For the readers of this blog who haven't listened to this album, you should! I highly suggest listening to it as a whole, but since most people will not go out and buy albums from bands they've never listened to before, I've found an mp3 for you (see: next paragraph!). It's kind of strange at first listen, what with Jeff Mangum's singing style as well as slightly unconventional instrument choices (not so unconventional now with the advent of Beirut and other such bands, but yeah), but it's definitely an album you'll learn to love (a lot of songs are simple acoustic numbers, which is a pretty good jumping-off point for someone getting into the band). I had never listened to it until my first semester at college, and once I started I couldn't stop. Now, it personally reminds me of college growing pains, and I think most people who like the album are able to associate it with a certain time of their life (or maybe a person?).

Anyway, if you're curious, this is an mp3 of my favorite song from the album, Two-Headed Boy, which doesn't have the strange instrumentation that I just described (I am misleading!), but does feature Jeff's impassioned singing over acoustic guitar.

In addition to everything, Sgt. Dunbar and the Hobo Banned (an Albany-area folk rock band) are covering the whole album on February 22nd at Valentine's in Albany, presumably to celebrate the anniversary. I wish I could go, but I'm sort of in a different continent right now. You should go if you can though; Sgt. Dunbar is already a very good local band (I've played them on my show a few times), so hearing them cover Aeroplane should be a great experience!

Speaking of anniversaries, I'm pretty sure Downward Is Heavenward by Hum hit the 10 year mark last month. Another amazing album (also, alliteration-worthy), but for different reasons. It's definitely a lost 90s rock classic. Hum got huge with "Stars" from their prior album You'd Prefer an Astronaut, but none of their other singles seemed to make an impression on mainstream rock radio (even other singles from You'd Prefer an Astronaut, including one of my favorite Hum songs "I'd Like Your Hair Long"), including the ones from Downward Is Heavenward. After being released, the album sold very poorly for an album released on a major label (less than 100,000 albums sold). Soon after, they were dropped by their label and the band got into a scary accident on the road. Things like this take their toll, and the band had their final show on New Year's Eve 2000.

It's a shame that Downward Is Heavenward wasn't promoted better by its label, because it too is an amazing album. However, it's nothing like Aeroplane. They both have totally different strengths. I'll describe it in terms of high school: Neutral Milk Hotel is the artsy kid who sort of keeps to his or herself, writing in a notebook outside in the shade, while Hum is the geeky kid who stays after Chemistry class in order to titrate sodium hydroxide with various strong acids. Unlike Aeroplane's sensitive subject matter and (most of the time) frailty, Downward Is Heavenward possesses huge walls of sound, with more guitar feedback than you've ever thought possible. There are some similarities to early Smashing Pumpkins (e.g. "Cherub Rock") and Failure, but I find it hard to really compare Hum and this album to another band, because they do so many different things with guitars (compare "Ms. Lazarus" with "Green to Me" and you'll see what I mean) while sounding consistently great. The rhythm section hits hard and is also top notch, but it's all about the guitar on this album.

Also, upon performing a simple (as opposed to complicated?!) Google search I found a website that has mp3s of all ten songs on the album! Please listen to them if you have never listened to Hum before, they won't disappoint (some of these mp3s have small sound breaks, as a warning).

I'm sure if you're reading this blog, you probably know at least one of these bands, but I figured kudos were due for the both of them. If you don't know one (or both) of them, now's a good chance to get acquainted and hopefully begin what will be a lifelong friendship.

1 comment:

Emelie said...

yay thank you!

You always know so much about music it blows me away.