“On Avery Island” – Neutral Milk Hotel

TRACK BY TRACK 

  1. Song Against Sex – My favorite song on this is hands-down the opening track, “Song Against Sex”.  I have no idea what the lyrics mean, but this song is fast, fun, and includes Weezer-esque vocals punctuated by timely trumpet interludes.  This makes you feel like a teenager again, and would be so much fun to hear live!
  2. You’ve Passed – this is a slower song, but the drums keep it moving.  This song is in a minor key and comes across like a chant with sitar-esque guitars throughout, and mystical-sounding solo.
  3. Someone is Waiting – here is the kind of song that loses me a little bit. The tempo is slower, and the vocals are wailing and unfocused.  There are some fun sound effects here though, something like applause or the sound of frying eggs.  There is a guitar section of a dissonant and buzzy nature that I would more happily tolerate with heavier drums.  Instead I start to remember the feeling of being up too late with a cigarette-smoke headache.
  4. A Baby for Pree – I had to look up these lyrics because they creeped me out a little bit with their tactile/descriptive/feminine imagery. I’m sure there are multiple interpretations, perhaps (likely) not to be taken literally.  The song tells a story, and the music underneath is almost minstrel style with simple strumming guitars – so it is really designed to support the storytelling singer and I think that is why the lyrics pop out so much here and demand to be noticed.
  5. Marching Theme – I would describe this “theme” piece as having a dizzying background of animated guitar rambling, while a deliberate and unwavering instrumental keyboard melody warbles above – then crashes into a guitar freakout.  I actually loved this, maybe because there were no complicated lyrics to distract me!
  6. Where You’ll Find Me – This continues the music theme started with “A Baby for Pree”, having the same melody and more really deliberate poetry. The first song is telling the story of Pree – this second one is told in the first person, seemingly continuing the story as a postlogue.  This really reminds me of Belle and Sebastian, without the emotional violins.  Instead there is a keyboard solo that works just fine.
  7. Avery Island / April 1st – The horns here remind me of the sound of evening taps. Has the feeling of bittersweet finality, the end of something.  While listening to this, in my mind I am seeing a Wes Anderson movie with sad and nostalgic images of being outside at dusk.
  8. Gardenhead / Leave Me Alone – I really liked this track. Another example of how the horn section (I guess I should say brass) is well-featured here, and I hate to keep saying that the vocals of NMH remind me of Weezer, but they really do.  In a good way!
  9. Three Peaches – This song is the one that reminds me most of Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Plenty of vocalizing without words – in a voice that seems Kurt Cobain-esque.  Finally, a little more grit than Rivers Cuomo here!
  10. Naomi – Here we have a little more of the song structure that appeals to the part of me that loves pop. A prominent verse of the song that came through is “Please Don’t Leave Me” – I initially wondered if this was a slower cover of Ben Lee’s 1995 song (of course it is not).   I like the synthesizer in the background; reminds me of The Strokes’ “12:51” (although a little less upbeat and rocking).
  11. April 8th – This continues the feeling given by #9 (“Three Peaches”) again. In fact, the repeating themes (“A Baby for Pree”/”Where You’ll Find Me Now” and these two grungier songs) alternating with more instrumental horn-infused tracks make you aware that you are listening to a deliberate musical work, not just a collection of isolated songs that happen to be on the same CD.
  12. Pree-Sisters Swallowing a Donkey’s Eye – This track is 13 minutes and 49 seconds long. It is obviously the band’s favorite; their way to go out with a bang (or drawn-out, distortion-infused, end-of-the-concert jam).  I would suggest this is their oevre principal from the body of their greater magnum opus.  But I don’t enjoy listening to it, sorry!
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