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Neutral Milk Hotel - On Avery Island Music Album Reviews

Each Sunday, Pitchfork takes an in-depth look at a significant album from the past, and any record not in our archives is eligible. Today, we revisit the oft-overshadowed debut from indie rock icons, a smaller and more intimate look into the mercurial world of Jeff Mangum.
In the mid-’90s, Jeff Mangum moved into a haunted closet in Denver where he had dreams of women in fur coats drinking champagne, yelling at him to get out of their house. During a snowy Colorado winter, the Louisiana-born songwriter and his childhood friend Robert Schneider set about recording what would become Neutral Milk Hotel’s debut album. They worked feverishly, going out to smoke cigarettes when they hit a roadblock, until, in May of 1995, they had a finished record. The North Carolina indie label Merge scooped up the young band and quietly released On Avery Island the following March.

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Patio - Essentials Music Album Reviews

The Brooklyn post-punk trio’s debut full-length reveals an instinct for scrappy, empathetic songwriting.

In 2014, Patio was the fictitious brainchild of Loren DiBlasi, then a music journalist who fancied bass guitar but had yet to pick one up. Linking with guitarist friend Lindsey-Paige McCloy, DiBlasi learned bass by replicating Pavement and Blink-182 licks. College friend Alice Suh, who’d just taken up drum lessons, completed the trio. Mitski accepted an invitation to their first show, and nearly five years later, Patio are a frequent opening act on the Brooklyn DIY scene, sharing bills with the likes of Deeper and Les Savy Fav. Their debut full-length, Essentials, reveals an instinct for scrappy, empathetic songwriting that was just waiting to be borne out.


The sprightly post-punk of Essentials commands attention, not because it’s overzealous or hyperbolic, but because of the vigor Patio bring to their songs. Their attitude recalls predecessors like Dig Me Out-era Sleater-Kinney, but Patio inject the final product with enough modern indie-pop influence to clear them of imitator status. They show off a knack for writing unconventional chord progressions in songs like “Endgame” and “Scum,” where Suh’s drum patterns become an unexpected focal point over zippy guitar melodies.

When DiBlasi’s deadpan alternates with McCloy’s croons, the result is a testament to the band’s sharp wit. Backed by buoyant riffs, the women trade lines on “Boy Scout,” McCloy gliding along the verses until DiBlasi interjects with a bleakly conversational chorus: “I went shopping the other day/This week I can afford to feel better.” Later, “Boy Scout” name-drops one of Patio’s New York City indie-rock peers—“I think I’m gonna go home and listen to Washer instead of spending any more time with you”—a celebration of introversion for those in the know.

With just 10 tracks that run under half an hour, Essentials can feel rushed. Raucous opener “Split,” soaring sing-along “New Reality,” and the feisty but fleeting “Boy Scout” would all benefit from more space to sprawl. At almost six minutes, “Open” is an anomaly: It’s by far the band’s most evocative and moving song to date, evidence of the potential Patio have when they allot more time to their songwriting. Hypnotic and morose, the song splices a heavy therapy session into tender hush and flashes of rugged noise. DiBlasi’s drone is especially haunting here, with some of Patio’s most poignant and enigmatic lyricism: “I only have one body to give, and you took it.” The song reads more like an intimate stream of consciousness than a rehearsed composition. “Sometimes I cry when I listen to classical music/...It’s so sad to think I’ll never create something so beautiful,” DiBlasi admits. Maybe she’s right, but Patio’s unyielding nerve on Essentials is a firm start to their own musical history.


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