Jeff Mangum Resurfaces

I haven’t been so overjoyed by a piece of music news in a very long time:

Jeff Mangum, the fragile, brilliant musician who created In the Aeroplane Over the Sea and On Avery Island, has not performed the material publicly since 2001… until now. The notoriously reclusive Mangum finally broke several years of radio silence this month to revisit some Neutral Milk Hotel songs with his old friends from the Elephant 6 crew on several stops of their Holiday Surprise Tour.

I vividly remember the first time I heard Aeroplane, in 1999. Thinking about it is like cracking open a time capsule. This dear friend of mine with a heart of gold, Andy Ristaino, had implored me, almost desperately, to pick up a copy as soon as I possibly could, and of course I did. Next day, I put it on the stereo for the first time and shuffled into the kitchen of my grubby, post-collegiate apartment to make a morning pot of joe. I recall distantly hearing what sounded like caterwauling and a drunken mariachi band waltzing off a cliff, pouring my coffee into a chipped mug and walking back into the living room. Mangum called out “two, one-two-three-four” and I froze to the spot in my bunny slippers, slackjawed. Must’ve stood there like that through just about the whole album, the forgotten cup cooling in my hands. I listened to Aeroplane five times in a row that day.

Cynics and naysayers, scoff all you like, but I think Magnet magazine was right: In the Aeroplane Over the Sea was the album of the decade, more important for so many of us than Nirvana or Radiohead could ever be, and a more honest and upsetting, beautiful and unflinching outcry than just about anything my generation had yet laid claim to.

It also nearly killed Mangum to make it, apparently. After a few sporadic months of touring, he disappeared from public view.

Welcome back, mister. Even if only for a moment or two. It is very good to see you again.

11 Responses to “Jeff Mangum Resurfaces”

  1. Kirk Mitchell Says:

    He looks pretty happy there. I’m glad.

  2. Tequila Says:

    I’ve been reading about this in a various music blogs. A shame the tour comes nowhere near LA though. Happy to see him resurface if only for a glimpse…In the Aeroplane Over the Sea may not be my album of the decade but it should rank high on anyone’s list regardless.

    Well above and beyond Radiohead that’s for damn sure. :P

    The Salinger thing was way overblown though. I always loved the fact he did his thing then decided to not so much retreat from public eye but go back to life before all the attention and do what he had to do for himself. Living and dealing with real life and all that comes with the day to day of it.

    Too many artists forget about that and turn into bloated overhyped songbirds instead of real musicians. Who knows what will come of this reemergence…new music…a tour…collaborations…a puppeteering act…some sort of opera about a peach grower…etc.

    Whatever happens chances are the album will be listened to by a whole new generation music junkies that’s for sure. Even by indie elitists who don’t actually listen to music anymore just bitch about it or make it needless academic…*cough*pitchfork*cough*

  3. andy r. Says:

    holy shit!

  4. andy r. Says:

    hey under the elephant 6 bands section jeff magnum is reffered to as “coming soon”.


  5. Alice Says:

    I’m ashamed to say it, but that album has way too much emotion packed into it for me. Listening to it is a huge effort for me, and leaves me feeling quite sad and a little sick to my stomach.

    Awesome fellow, though.

  6. Jack Says:

    In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is an album I cannot listen to without settling in to hear the whole thing. With some albums you can play favorites–picking a track here and there to peruse when the urge strikes. With Aeroplane…you’re in for a penny, in for a pound.

  7. andy r. Says:

    seriously, i think it is the last album i’ve had personal shamanistic experiences with. every time i listen to it it comforts and clausterphobics me… (if that’s a word.) I would be pleased as punch to see jeff sing them in person. but if he needs to move on i would be pleased with that aspect of life also. i can’t think of any musician who has affected effected me in the way magnum has.


  8. Jerem Morrow Says:

    Oh Mer, distiller o’ things I need in my life.

  9. Sarah Says:

    I was fumbling through the coilhouse links and I found this, and nearly cried! Jeff Mangum’s music was the first breathe of fresh air I’d ever gotten from music. Two Headed Boy part 2 was the song that glued me to his loving melodies.

    Thank you so much for uploading this! It really put me in a great mood.

  10. Mer Says:

    Oh, you’re so welcome, Sarah. I know the feeling… it just makes me glad to know that Mangum’s doing well and smiling and still occasionally performing the material.

  11. Sarah Says:

    Oh, me too. I felt awful about how emotionally draining the album was for him, but at least in the end he made beautiful music.

    Have you heard of Elvis Perkins? He’s a singer too, and his sound is very similar to Jeff’s, in my opinion. Here’s a link to my favorite song: