Jeff Mangum isn’t just the frontman of the lauded ‘90s indie-rock band Neutral Milk Hotel—he’s also an artist. Mangum sells his drawings on the band’s website and recently released a new series, titled “The Book Cipher Sings,” that has fans wondering whether new music from the group could be coming our way.
Here’s why: the website calls the drawings “steganography,” which refers to the practice of hiding messages within other text or data. The actual physical drawings received by fans have included elements that aren’t in their advertised images on the site.
One customer noted that his drawing, when looked at from certain angles, spells out the words “double album” and “double LP.”
Many of the drawings allude to the year 2017. They reference the magicicada cassini cicada, which disappears for periods of 17 years and will return to Georgia (Neutral Milk Hotel’s home state) next year, as well as Cassini Huygens, the space probe sent to explore Saturn in the late ‘90s that is due to be destroyed in 2017.
So, is new Neutral Milk Hotel music on the way? It’s been 18 years since the band released their last album, 1998’s indie classic In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. They’ve gotten back together to do some touring in the past few years, but an announcement on their website seemed to indicate that the reunion was over: “Dear friends we love you but it’s time to say goodbye for the never ending now to announce that spring 2015 will be our last tour for the foreseeable future,” they wrote.
Is Mangum just being an enigmatic tease? Or is Neutral Milk Hotel’s obsessive fanbase about to go ballistic with the glee of an implausible dream realized? Only time will tell. Check out Mangum’s drawings on the band’s web store here.