Top Five Post-Neutral Milk Hotel Bands

Published on May 30th, 2009 in: Issues, Listicles, Music, Top Five Lists |

elvis perkins in dearland

Elvis Perkins (In Dearland)

While others moved on to the Decemberists, the Arcade Fire, or—God help us all—Bright Eyes, Elvis Perkins would eventually fill the void left from a dearth of Neutral Milk Hotel’s music. Perkins’ voice, while much less declamatory than Mangum’s, shares his reedy tone and unusual accent. Unlike the Decemberists’ literary lyrics, Perkins is far more adept at drawing on Mangum’s gift for surreal phrases that sound both otherworldly and too close to home. (The first verse of “Emil’s Vietnam in the Sky” is anchored with the line “In the hallway where the devil and his lover beg you for change on the sly.”) The endearingly imperfect horn charts that gild and punctuate many of his songs also bring to mind Scott Spillane’s Salvation Army Marching Band-inspired arrangements, as on the opening of “Doomsday” from Perkins’ most recent album, Elvis Perkins in Dearland.

The connection between Aeroplane and Perkins’ output to date is not confined to the aesthetics. Both Aeroplane and Ash Wednesday look unflinchingly at tragedy. Where Mangum’s mourning for Anne Frank is a universal sadness, Perkins’ comes from a more personal place. In the liner notes to the independently-released demo version of Ash Wednesday, Perkins says that he lost his parents to “two of the greatest tragedies of our time”: his father, Hitchcock repertory actor Anthony Perkins, died of AIDS in 1992, and almost nine years to the day later his mother perished on one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center.

Perkins’ music has grown to encompass many other influences on Elvis Perkins in Dearland, which is the first recorded appearance of his backing band. Unlike Mangum, who left music after the release of Aeroplane, Perkins has not only explored tragedy but also how to move on from it. His Ash Wednesday-era B-side “The Dumps” ends with the prophetic line “We are starting the living again,” and “Shampoo”, the opening track on In Dearland, likewise features the lyric “I don’t want to die, no matter how dark tomorrow may be.”

Pages: 1 2 3

One Response to “Top Five Post-Neutral Milk Hotel Bands”

  1. tom williams:
    May 31st, 2009 at 5:35 pm


    Just wanted to say I really enjoyed this. I wrote something very similar a few months back (, so it’s really cool to see people thinking along similar lines.

    I’ve never heard any Elvis Perkins or Laura Gibson so I’m off to check them out now! Thanks for the tips!

    – tom

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.