January 10, 2014

Neutral Milk Hotel Is Almost Here | Preview

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By JAMES RAINIS

’90s indie nerds rejoice: Neutral Milk Hotel are coming to The State Theatre. It’s okay. You can cry a little.

The Athens, Georgia fuzz-folk collective are one of indie’s biggest and most influential cult groups. Their indisputable classic, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, is an amalgamation of lo-fi aesthetics, funereal horn arrangements and lead singer Jeff Mangum’s own (kind of bizarre) lyrical obsession with Anne Frank. Following its release and a brief tour in 1998, however, Mangum shied from the public eye and nobody but his closest friends knew where he was. Mangum’s disappearance became — along with Robert Pollard’s impressive alcoholism and My Bloody Valentine’s long-awaited sequel to Loveless — part of indie rock lore, inspiring wild speculation and a fervent following.

In The Aeroplane Over The Sea is not just the kind of record prized by record store clerks and hipper-than-thou vinyl fetishists. Its influence is undeniable: You can see strains of Neutral Milk Hotel in the inventive arrangements of Arcade Fire’s Funeral, the homemade intimacy of Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago and in Sufjan Stevens’s peculiar lyrical obsessions.

Aeroplane is a monolith of an album, so when Mangum reappeared last year for a solo tour, the music world was happy to get a taste. With the announcement of Neutral Milk Hotel’s reformation, longtime fans outright rejoiced. NHM are booked for the festival circuit — they’re on that absurd Coachella lineup, as anticipated — but are making a happy little stop at The State Theatre, this Monday on January 13th, so do whatever it takes to get your butt back to Ithaca early and witness the elusive legends firsthand. Tickets went on sale via Dan Smalls months ago, but are (somehow?) still available. Get them. Reviews of their early shows have been extremely positive, and Mangum’s backing band — especially Julian Koster and his amazing singing saw — are not something to miss. But be forewarned: I can count on at least one Sun columnist who’ll be tearing up when the band launches into “Holland, 1945.”

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