Two albums to listen to: A Detroit compilation album and an indie darling

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Will Westbrook

Editor’s note: In this recurring column, music writer Chris Duncan suggests two albums to listen to this week. Have a suggestion? Send a tweet to @chr_dunc, and your pick might appear in next week’s article.

In the Aeroplane Over the Sea — Neutral Milk Hotel

This album is either the work of a group of geniuses or one sustained acid trip — but, either way, it’s a field day for your ears.

Indie-rock band Neutral Milk Hotel approached this record with an interesting inspiration: Anne Frank’s diary. The group never officially confirmed it, but there are subtle references to her birth date, death date, and lead singer and guitarist Jeff Mangum mentions the diary during live performances.

In contrast to Neutral Milk Hotel’s debut album, On Avery Island, each track on In the Aeroplane Over the Sea shifts and emphasizes a different composition. Mangum weaves his odd lyrics into the music with a certain intensity that has yet to be reproduced. No one knows what any of it means, but every word holds a kind of unknown power, making it hipster gold.

Tracks to listen to: “The King of Carrot Flowers Pts. Two & Three,” “Two-Headed Boy,” “Holland, 1945”

Sympathetic Sounds of Detroit — Various artists

Most of the bands in Detroit’s rock scene during the ’90s would never reach anything more than local fame. When musician Jack White realized this, he decided to preserve the groups in this 2001 compilation album that featured some of the most prominent acts of the era.

Although Jack White’s own band, the White Stripes, was the only group on the record to find mainstream success, what makes Sympathetic Sounds of Detroit special isn’t the alternative rock band’s appearance — it’s the character of each individual recording. The album, which White laid to eight-track during a one-day, home recording session, is pure rock and R&B infused with Detroit’s hard-working attitude. The result is a rough but cohesive recording full of passion.

Tracks to listen to: “Black Girl” (The Paybacks), “I’m Through with White Girls” (The Dirtbombs), “Accusatory” (The Hentchmen)