In the Aeroplane Over the Sea: A Tribute to Anne Frank

Jeff Mangum: In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

Ten years ago this month, Jeff Mangum, a songwriter from the Louisiana backcountry, and his broken-down band released what many critics have called one of the few truly great albums of this generation, a musical curiosity that is so gloriously odd that it almost defies explanation. The group called itself Neutral Milk Hotel, and the record, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, is a concept album about Anne Frank.

In an interview given subsequent to the release of Aeroplane, Mangum spoke about how deeply Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl had influenced the record. He explained that upon reading the book for the first time, he found himself completely overwhelmed with sadness and grief. Mangum’s honesty was translated directly to his music, which turned out to be a source of great power.

While the record sells better than ever today, you won’t see Neutral Milk Hotel on a stage anytime soon because, for all intents and purposes, they’ve vanished into thin air. At the end of Aeroplane’s final song, you can hear Jeff Mangum, the band’s all-around mastermind, put down his guitar and walk off. Except for a few months of secluded touring, that’s exactly what Mangum did in real life. When the major labels, glossy magazines and wild fans came crying out for his attention, Mangum never responded. There was no breakup announcement, no reason given for the radio silence, he just faded away. After a decade of speculation, sightings, and hoaxes, his story still remains a mystery: Why did he decide to disappear, and where has he gone?

In the Aeroplane Over the Sea: The Diary of a Young Girl

Anne Frank Speaks: A Holocaust Memorial

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