Neutral Milk Hotel, the beloved indie folk band fronted by Jeff Mangum, has announced the release of The Collected Works of Neutral Milk Hotel, a comprehensive box set that will be available on February 24th via Merge Records. The set includes an expanded double LP edition of the band’s debut album On Avery Island, a previously unreleased live recording of “Little Birds”, an exclusive 12″ picture disc of Live at Jittery Joe’s, and a “Holland, 1945” / “Engine” 7-inch on black vinyl with new artwork.
Known for their use of vivid imagery and unique sounds including accordion, singing saw, tape collages, and the so-called “zanzithophone,” Neutral Milk Hotel released two full-length records, 1996’s On Avery Island and 1998’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. Both albums left an indelible mark on the burgeoning lo-fi indie scene and, along with their mysterious creator, maintain their status as paragons of psychedelic folk to this day.
The release of The Collected Works of Neutral Milk Hotel marks the first time the collection will be available digitally. It was first self-released by Mangum and his mother under Neutral Milk Hotel Records in 2011.
Along with the announcement comes a new version of “Little Birds”, recorded live at Brooklyn’s Prospect Park Bandshell on Neutral Milk Hotel’s 2014 reunion tour. Written in 1998 shortly before Mangum stopped performing as Neutral Milk Hotel, the song was inspired by a confrontation with a street preacher in downtown Athens and touches on the themes of conservative Christianity and the impact it can have on one’s sense of morality.
Included in the box set is a remastered and expanded version of the 1994 7″ Everything Is, which appears as a 10″ vinyl EP with a few extra songs from the period including “Unborn”, a song from a tape that Mangum made for Bill Doss (Olivia Tremor Control) when the two musicians traded cassettes like audio letters, filled with songs, field recordings, and conversation.
The box set also features a trio of 7″ singles including early versions of On Avery Island songs “You’ve Passed” and “Where You’ll Find Me Now” from 1994, recorded on four-track by Mangum on his own. Mangum initially intended to record the whole album at home on a four-track but then tapped The Apples in Stereo’s Robert Schneider to produce the record. The cassette version featured in the box set was given to Schneider by Mangum before the sessions and later rediscovered in a shoebox.
In addition to these early recordings, the collection also includes the Ferris Wheel on Fire 10″ EP, recorded with Schneider in 2010, which features songs that Mangum had written many years prior but never set to tape (with the exception of “My Dream Girl Don’t Exist”, which he recorded live at Aquarius Records in San Francisco in the ‘90s).
The final component of the collection is Live at Jittery Joe’s. Recorded in 1997 and first released in 2001 to combat the high prices of bootlegs on eBay, the recording captures Mangum and his bandmates—Julian Koster, Jeremy Barnes, and Scott Spillane—at a pivotal moment in the band’s history, after the release of On Avery Island and before the release of their seminal In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. The band was about to get kicked out of their apartment in New York’s West Village and would ultimately resettle in Athens, GA alongside their Elephant 6 label mates Olivia Tremor Control and Elf Power.
These additional songs and recordings offer a glimpse of Neutral Milk Hotel’s early days and provide insight into Mangum’s development as an underground visionary.
Listen to the newly released live version of “Little Birds” from 2014 and its 1998 demo via Bandcamp in the player below, and to pre-order The Collected Works of Neutral Milk Hotel box set, head here.
The Collected Works Of Neutral Milk Hotel Tracklist:
In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
1. King of the Carrot Flowers Pt. 1
2. King of Carrot Flowers Pts. 2 & 3
3. In The Aeroplane Over the Sea
4. Two-Headed Boy
6. Holland, 1945
7. Communist Daughter
8. Oh Comely
11. Two-Headed Boy Pt. 2
On Avery Island
1. Song Against Sex
2. You’ve Passed
3. Someone Is Waiting
4. A Baby for Pree
5. Marching Theme
6. Where You’ll Find Me Now
7. Avery Island/April 1st
8. Gardenhead/Leave Me Alone
9. Three Peaches
11. April 8th
12. Pree-Sisters Swallowing a Donkey’s Eye
Ferris Wheel On Fire
1. Oh Sister (1995)
2. Ferris Wheel On Fire (1993)
3. Home (1992)
4. April 8th (1992)
5. I Will Bury You in Time (1994)
6. Engine (1993)
7. A Baby for Pree/Glow Into You (1995)
8. My Dream Girl Don’t Exist (Live) 
1. Everything Is
2. Here We Are (For W. Cullen Hart)
4. Tuesday Moon
5. Ruby Bulb
6. Snow Song
7. Aunt Eggma Blow Torch
1. Little Birds (Live) 
2. Little Birds (Studio Demo) 
You’ve Passed / Where You’ll Find Me Now
1. You’ve Passed (Alternate Version)
2. Where You’ll Find Me Now (Alternate Version)
Live at Jittery Joe’s
2. A Baby for Pree
3. Two-Headed Boy
4. I Will Bury You in Time
5. Gardenhead / Leave Me Alone
6. Two-Headed Boy Pt. 2
7. I Love How You Love Me
10. King of Carrot Flowers Pt. 2
11. King of Carrot Flowers Pt. 3
12. Oh Comely