Monday Mixtape

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Hello all. The inspiration for this week’s comes from a very good turn of events that happened to me over the last few days. On Monday, tickets for the UK reunion tour of Neutral Milk Hotel went on sale and I managed to get some. To some of you, I am sure, that will mean nothing, but for me it was an enormous reason to be joyful. For those of you whom don’t understand why this is an awesome event, or why the combination of the seemingly unrelated words neutral, milk and hotel has any significance, allow me a second to explain. Neutral Milk Hotel formed as a band in the late 1980s as an outlet for singer-songwriter Jeff Mangum. They were part of the Elephant 6 Recording Company, which was founded by Jeff and several friends, whose initial bands, The Apples In Stereo and Olivia Tremor Control, released some of the most innovative and fun records of the 90s. In 1998 Neutral Milk Hotel released their second album In The Aeroplane Over the Sea, which is now rightfully regarded as one of the greatest albums ever created. However, in the months following the albums release, Jeff Mangum receded from any form of public life baring about two interviews and one bootlegged performance. It was only three years ago he began to start performing solo acoustic shows again, often unannounced. The forthcoming shows mark the first time the original line up has performed together for over 15 years and will be only a handful of occasions where the material from In The Aeroplane Over The Sea will have been performed by with the full band. So, in celebration of, and hope to find new listeners, I’ve compiled a selection of some of my favourite Elephant 6 songs. Hopefully you’ll enjoy, I’ve not chosen ones that are too surreal.

All the best.

(You can listen to the whole playlist here.)

1)    Neutral Milk Hotel – Naomi

Taken from Neutral Milk Hotel’s debut album On Avery Island, ‘Naomi’ is one of the greatest romance songs ever penned. The sensuality of Mangum’s lyrics oozes from each syllable and the arrangements are sonorously composed.

2)    Olivia Tremor Control – Define A Transparent Dream

Drawing heavily from 60s psychedelic music, Olivia Tremor Control were probably the most experimental group of the Elephant 6 collective. ‘Define A Transparent Dream’ captures them flexing their melodic muscles whilst still throwing in plenty of sonic deconstruction, too.

3)    The Apples In Stereo – Winter Must Be Cold

I feel the title of this track might be ominous for this year, as the temperature is dropping sharply already, but at least this track is the most summery sounding song to reference winter ever written.

4)    of Montreal – Tim I Wish You Were Born A Girl

For me this might be the sweetest song I’ve heard. Although it is not the greatest example of of Montreal’s sound, I can’t help but feel completely warmed from head to toe by this song’s loveliness. Who of us does not have a friend that if they were sexually compatible with it wouldn’t be the perfect scenario.

5)    Beulah – Ballad of the Lonely Argonaut

The arrangements on this are brilliant. It has all the hallmarks of great pop songwriting but the playfulness of the lyrics, arrangements and instrumentation alter it into a two and half minute praise to making music.

6)    The Essex Green – Rue De Lis

This track might have come after The Essex Green were no longer associated with Elephant 6, but ever since I heard this track seven years ago I have kept it with me. Always popping into my head, scrolling over to it on my ipod. I don’t know why, maybe you’ll figure it out.

7)    The Music Tapes – The Minister of Longitude

Julian Koster is still the unsung hero of Elephant 6. Best known for his saw playing that pops up on several tracks by fellow Elephant 6 artists, under his alias The Music Tapes he is producing wonderful and absurd lo-fi pocket symphonies. I would also recommend checking out the video for ‘For The Planet Pluto’ which is one of the most adorable videos I’ve seen.

(You can read more about Tom here)

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