Recent start-up label Fringe Sound Records is currently working hard on putting together their debut release, The Songs of Neutral Milk Hotel: A Tribute. In order to do justice to Neutral Milk Hotel’s remarkable catalog of original songs, Fringe Sound has actively sought the participation of some of the very best artists populating today’s fringe music world. Mischief Brew, Off With Their Heads, Possessed by Paul James, Restavrant, Hospital Ships, Emma Hill, The Slow Poisoner, The Taxpayers, Slate Dump, and Delaney Davidson are already committed to the project, while a handful of other equally exceptional artists have yet to accept or refuse the label’s humble request for song contributions. Ideally, the additional artists would be Joey Cape (Lagwagon, Bad Astronaut), Defiance Ohio, C.J. Marie, Hail Seizures, Mojo Juju, and so on. Hopefully more of them than not jump aboard this endeavor and contribute their touches to Neutral Milk Hotel’s songs.
Fringe Sound will be releasing the compilation in an LP+CD combo pack, as well as digital download. And if you, my friend, back the project at Kickstarter, depending on the tier under which your donation falls, you will receive perks from the project. And what's more, you will have helped make possible a wonderful release based on the songs of an important and very influential band.
But...not everyone knows about Jeff Mangum and his band Neutral Milk Hotel, do they? Well, in the event that you aren’t familiar with the band or their songs…
Were one to approach a considerable number of underground bands and singer-songwriters from the indie rock, alt-folk and punk scenes, among others, and asked them separately which artists influenced them most over the years, there is one name that would undoubtedly come up again and again. Neutral Milk Hotel! That, of course, would not be at all surprising, since Neutral Milk Hotel has been a longtime favorite of artists and obscure music enthusiasts alike for quite some time now.
Despite their substantial fanbase and lasting albums, Neutral Milk Hotel, to this day, are one of underground music’s best kept secrets. Neutral Milk Hotel formed in the American South in the late ‘80s as the project of one Jeff Mangum, a remarkably talented and highly creative songsmith. They toured extensively and released two wholly original and amazing full-length releases on Merge Records, their landmark debut On Avery Island in 1996, and their most celebrated body of work In the Aeroplane Over the Sea in 1998.
Sometime in 1999, rumored to have been fed up with touring and stressed about certain pieces of unfavorable press, Jeff Mangum split up Neutral Milk Hotel and sort of just disappeared from the scene altogether. In his way, Jeff Mangum is to today’s obscure music scene what J.D. Salinger is to classic literature, since both artists, despite their very different mediums, vanished from the public eye after making noteworthy contributions to their area of artistic interest and thereby gained considerable fanbases. Naturally, this added a fair amount of mystery and eccentric appeal to the already unique and intriguing character of Jeff Mangum, as well as his abandoned project Neutral Milk Hotel.
When Neutral Milk Hotel ended, the alternative/underground music community mourned. For more than a few fans, this meant no more shows or releases from one of their favorite bands. For others, it was simply regrettable that this extraordinary-sounding band whose take on indie rock, alt-folk and transcendent noise pop was unlike anything done before, and whose lyrics were strangely poetic, personally spiritual and weirdly philosophical. To so many fans, Neutral Milk Hotel’s songs weren’t just about the execution but also the process, not so much about the form but also the substance...the meaning, the inimitably expressive manner in which it was conveyed to the listener. Like too few bands and singer-songwriters out there, Neutral Milk Hotel was one of a kind.
Recently, in 2011 as I understand it, Jeff Mangum picked up the broken pieces of his old band and formed them once again in a cohesive artistic unit. Under the old NMH banner, not to mention the same beliefs and ideas, Neutral Milk Hotel is back. They have been touring quite a lot since announcing that they've reunited. Although an EP of previously unreleased songs from the '90s was released in 2011 under the title Ferris Wheel on Fire, there isn't a new full-length album out as of yet. There most likely will be an album out before too terribly long. And what better way to celebrate the significance of Neutral Milk Hotel's important past and promising future than to release a comp such as the one Fringe Sound Records is currently working on?!
If you are a Neutral Milk Hotel fan, and if you are in a position to do so, throw a few bucks toward The Songs of Neutral Milk Hotel: A Tribute. Besides, it's the holidays. We are supposed to be more selfless this time of year and consider others, which I guess includes the successes of their endeavors...if our actions can make a difference in such a thing. And in this case, they can. You can visit and go over the details of The Songs of Neutral Milk Hotel: A Tribute at Kickstarter here.
Have a very Neutral Milk Hotel Christmas!