The Story Behind The Sleeve #14: Neutral Milk Hotel - In The Aeroplane Over The Sea

Having conceived the artwork for debut album On Avery Island himself, Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum called in a previous offer of help from R.E.M. and Green Day sleeve designer Chris Bilheimer for this 1998 follow-up. Remaining heavily involved, Mangum wanted “turn-of-the-century, penny arcade kind of imagery”, had a postcard he wanted to use, and had already commissioned some illustrations, which ended up inside the sleeve. The challenge for Bilheimer was to make those new illustrations work with his rustic design. The Athens, Georgia artist set to work on artificially ageing the new images and producing a weathered lyric sheet – there’s also a grubby stain in the top left of the front cover, and his design is lent an air of surrealism, as the woman’s head is replaced by a drum. The record was a cult success, the sixth-highest-selling vinyl album of 2008 in the US, with sales nearing 400,000 Stateside by 2013.

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