I can pinpoint exactly when I fell in love with Neutral Milk Hotel and all the times I’ve fallen in love to Neutral Milk Hotel: with life, with people, and a little bit with myself. I was in junior high when I first heard Oh Comely. A friend who I’ve known since the first grade posted it on Facebook. It was a much needed musical bright light for me. I was shedding my regrettable faux-scene phase and holing up in my room listening to the Velvet Underground regularly. Kids by MGMT was playing everywhere at the time and I sat on my throne of musical elitism and scoffed because I had OBVIOUSLY heard it first.
Oh Comely led me to the rest of Neutral Milk Hotel’s sophomore album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. It was one of the few albums I had the attention span to listen to in its entirety at the time because a psychiatrist had put me on heavy doses of anti-anxiety meds that stoned me like a witch in Salem. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea wrapped me up in vivid, fever dream images of rolling green fields that looked to the sea and cramped rows of old houses separated by brick roads that buzzed with life. I spent that summer laying in the grass reading Angela’s Ashes and playing Aeroplane as the soundtrack to the story.
It took me a little longer to fall in love with NMH’s first album, On Avery Island, but I’ve come to feel like it’s totally, 100% my album. I came to love it on my own. I didn’t share it with anybody else (except for the time I gave my ex boyfriend the album for Christmas, of course). Every time I hear the lyrics “I just wanna dance in your tangles” from Gardenhead/Leave Me Alone, I fall in love with the whole world and everybody in it because it reminds me to be vulnerable, to be soft, to let people into my life, and myself into the lives of others. Hey, maybe I’m a dorky, naive sap for feeling so much toward a band, an album, and especially toward a single line in a song.
I’ve woven Neutral Milk Hotel into the tiniest corners of myself and I annoyingly try to give little threads of it to the people around me. However, I learned that if you unravel big spools of yourself to share with another person, you might rip or come undone. This inevitably happens to everyone at one point, but we all just have to learn to dance in our own tangles, reclaim what we love for ourselves, and patch ourselves up. When it happens to you, let me suggest some Neutral Milk Hotel to patch things up.
by Hayley Robertson