Though singer/songwriter/bandleader Jeff Magnum would refine his brilliant, quirky psych-folk to perfection on the majestic IN THE AEROPLANE OVER THE SEA, ON AVERY ISLAND--the first offering from Neutral Milk Hotel--is full of rich rewards. Magnum distinguishes himself from his fellow Elephant 6 cohorts Apples In Stereo and Olivia Tremor Control by trading sunshiny acid-dipped Beatles-esque pop for a somewhat edgier sound, centered (perhaps ironically) on acoustic guitar and introspective (albiet surreal and associative) lyrics. Punky squalls of distorted guitar, brass arrangements, a thick, muted rhythm section, and an onslaught of swirling, otherworldly noise cascade around Magnum's clean acoustic guitar and strained, plaintive vocals. The resulting stew is equal parts sensitive guitar troubadour and lo-fi indie pop a la Guided By Voices. Tunes such as "Song Against Sex," "Someone Is Waiting," and the beautiful, ghostly "Three Peaches" prove Magnum a powerful songwriter--one who employs enough lyrical sheen and existential confusion to make the songs challenging, and enough hooks to keep them accessible. The band stakes out impressive new sonic territory with this release, making them one of the brightest stars in the Elephant 6 constellation.