Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

11. Neutral Milk HotelIn the Aeroplane Over the Sea

I think that this is one of the best albums of all time. It’s hard to talk about. I feel like that album is the Sgt Pepper’s of my generation. It’s a record that knits together a whole generation of music-lovers. The fact that it’s separate and isolated is sort of poetic. My generation wasn’t connected by a band; we didn’t have a Beatles. We had our own bizarre little pockets of music, our own separate ways of listening and connecting.

That record functions in the world unlike any other record. I’ve never seen anything like it. It is a religious record. People feel so fondly about it, in such a profound way. Beyond time and space, on different continents, at different parties, the name of that band will come up and you and stranger will grab each other’s hands. There’s not a whole lot of music that can do that. Something about that album and those songs created a deep thread of human connection through a lot of people. I think it’s incredibly rare.

I think all musicians inherently want to connect, because that’s what music is. Music connects you, through this magical medium, to another human being. Listening to Neutral Milk Hotel and looking at the artwork for that record and listening to how it was made, and thinking about the mythology of the Elephant 6 collective, it’s like Sgt Pepper’s – you imagine that there’s this magical world somewhere, with all these crazy musicians, living down the road from each other, banging on pots and pans and playing brass instruments, and you want to be there. You get to soak that magic up just by listening to the record.

Brian [Viglione], the drummer in the Dresden Dolls, got to see Neutral Milk Hotel when they were touring that record. He was the one that turned me onto it. In the middle of the night, after our very first band rehearsal, he took me over to his house and said ‘I can’t believe you’ve never heard this record. We’re not doing anything until we sit in the dark and listen to it from beginning to end.’ That record was always really important to us.

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