Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sam's Feature: Neutral Milk Hotel/Jeff Mangum Hidden Gems

To say that Neutral Milk Hotel has songs that are hidden gems might sound a bit redundant because basically the band's entire body of work is a hidden gem. They happen to be my favorite band and after some late night Youtube surfing I stumbled upon a song of theirs I had never heard. This was a shock to me because I have both of their albums (On Avery Island and the best album ever recorded, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea) as well as their EP (Everything Is). As any NMH fan knows, the bands singer-songwriter/super music genius Jeff Mangum just stopped making music after Aeroplane. So to find these songs was the closest I've come to hearing a new album of their's. These songs just make it even more frustrating that Mangum doesn't release any music because he is a genius. There is no other word to describe him. So here's some songs that were never released by the band.

Little Birds
This song is classic Jeff Mangum form. The video opens with Mangum explaining the song he's about to sing as if he knows he's crazy or he thinks his stuff isn't that good. In classic form he sings an incredibly emotional song with rich, kinda disturbing lyrics which sound anything but "not finished". If you go to the YouTube page the poster put up the lyrics which are worth reading.

This studio recorded song actually has another version. This one is commonly referred to the "drone" version because of its guitar backing. Somewhere out there is an "organ version" with (duh) an organ. The song is slow and beautiful and pretty simple, which is what I think the band did best.

Ferris Wheel on Fire
It's videos like this one which makes me wish I was born about 10 years earlier, because then I would have at least had a chance to make ONE of NMH's concerts and as its clear from the next video, Mangum didn't really hold back while singing any of his songs.

Rubby Bulbs
This next song is less "Holland 1945" and more "Communist Daughter" in that its a bit more introspective and there is clearly such a deep focus on these lyrics. See how long Jeff sings the words angels and try to do it yourself, it's a fun game. Another beautiful song that would fit perfectly in either of NMH's albums.

This song is a cover of another Elephant 6 Band, The Gerbils. This song starts with another member of NMH singing and Jeff later joining. If I had to guess as to who was singing the beginning of the song it sounds a bit like Robert Schneider of The Apples in Stereo who I know produced for the band but it could just as likely be anyone else. All I know is the duet sounds great. As great as this song is, the video the poster put up gets annoying really quickly so just close your eyes and enjoy the music on this one.

My Dream Girl Don't Exist
I'm surprised this was never released on On Avery Island because it makes a great single but as Jeff says at the beginning it woulld likely never be released. This would be a great song to sing along to in the car, if you ask me. You will also likely recognize the end of this song from a song that WAS released.

Lastly there is a song that Jeff did outside of NMH called When the Stars Shine by The Instruments. Its on iTunes and recommend getting it or illegally downloading however you roll is cool. Anyway most of these songs in the post were on NMH's demo tapes. I wish I could tell you why they haven't been released but they should judging by this small sample.

1 comment:

  1. Sam,
    Here are my thoughts on these new Mangum Gems.
    Little birds: Awesome in that haunting, disturbing-if-you-think-at-all-about-what-he's singing way that is classic Mangum. A pretty song, with some very interesting (if mildly psychotic) ideas behind it.
    Bucket: solid song, more of the On Avery Island oeuvre than In the Aeroplane, but that isn't necessarily a criticism, just a less-high compliment...
    Ferris Wheel on Fire: Jeff is definitely not holding back on this one, definitely another solid song.
    Rubby Bulbs: Glorious, introspective Jeff is in full form on this one. An apt comparison to "Communist DaughteR" and the frst one that I think might fit wel, as you said, on either album. Also, HOLY CRAP on how long he holds that "angels." I was expecting long based on your intro, but dear god that man has pipes.
    Glue: An excellent duet, and one I could see being played regularly on my ipod were it available.
    My Dream Girl Don't Exist: Incredibly catchy hook, and seemingly fits in thematically with In the Aeroplane (dead love, though it isn't Anne frank in this one...). I could definitely see myself singing this while driving in the car as you suggested (the acoustics in my car make me sound AMAZING, btw).

    Overall: If this were released today as a new EP (as I believe you wanted me to look at it) I would, first be excited to nearly the point of death that NMH was making music again, and that would likely make me give this EP and automatic A. Quality wise, though it would straight up deserve the grade. Bucket and Ferris Wheel On Fire are the weak links, and even those are solid songs. Little Birds, Rubby bulbs, Glue, and my dream girl don't exist would all be classics in my mind, and played on a regular basis. God, if only NMH would come back to me...-Jordan