Neutral Milk Hotel
For all their experimental detours and garnish, Neutral Milk Hotel's songs display, at their core, great songwriting in the traditional sense, like the late-career Beatles and Beach Boys. Emotionally evocative melodies and lovely vocals move through songs with memorable grace. When listening to these songs, however, you'd be hard-pressed to find a Western instrument not represented in their elaborate, Lo-Fi orchestrations. A muffled trap kit, a singing saw, a desperate voice, an accordion, a squawking flugelhorn, and various electronics help compile an endless list of noise makers that play in the margins between a chaotic, "everybody come to our house and jam" sound and meticulous song construction. These disparate sounds are then brought together as if resounding off a basement's wood-panelled walls and soiled shag carpet, or echoing out of a converted-barn studio. Neutral Milk Hotel's sound is far from gleaming Los Angeleno production, but to polish away their oxidized patina would be to erase their immediacy and simple rustic beauty.