The album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by indie band Neutral Milk Hotel turns 26 on February 10. I'm a huge fan of the album, and I'm not alone. Far Out Magazine calls the album "one of the most singular, engrossing, strange, and sonically unique albums to ever be released." They continue:
By the end of the 2000s, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea had become one of the most acclaimed and buzzed-about albums in the history of indie rock, inspiring scores of bands and artists to take its haunted carnival sounds and incorporate them into the next generation of music. . . Neutral Milk Hotel didn't just make an album – they made a whole world to get lost in, but one that you could only inhabit for a short amount of time. 11 songs, 40 minutes, and two album sides were all that you could get. Hundreds of thousands of fans have been trying to extend that experience ever since.
Much ink has been spilled over the last two and a half decades analyzing and praising the album, and it continues to be a special gem to its many fans—including other musicians who have found inspiration in it. Again, Far Out Magazine:
In the Aeroplane Over the Sea remains timeless and strangely universal, tapping into the frightened child hidden within every adult human being. It's a journey that demands return visits if just to hear all of the singular elements of the record one more time. It's a jewel of an album, pure and unaffecting by the dulling of time and trends. Just like a golden memory, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea will always be there, waiting for you whenever you need it.
To celebrate its 26 year anniversary, I scoured the internet for some amazing versions of the title track, which also happens to be one of my all-time favorite songs. I hope you enjoy these as much I as do!
We have to start with the original, of course:
Here's a moving choral sing-along by the ad-hoc community choir, Flash Chorus:
And a soulful version by North Carolina-based folk-rock band the Avett Brothers:
This version by Apartment Sessions, a Brooklyn-based multimedia artist collective, is my favorite version of all. It fills me with so much joy and so many happy tears:
This version by Vancouver-based indie musician Dan Mangan is hauntingly ethereal:
I love this earnest acoustic version by Chicago-based musician Derek Downey (aka Dr. Duke Ratchet):
I find this groovy version by Phish to be sweet and comforting:
Finally, Buenos Aires, Argentina-based group Julio y Agosto beautifully translates the song into Spanish: