Earlier this month, Jeff Mangum, the enigmatic and somewhat reclusive Neutral Milk Hotel frontman, began selling a new series of drawings on the band’s website. He’s been selling his drawings for over a decade, but this new series, called “The Book Cipher Sings,” seems to be a bit different. Fans were already wondering if it suggested that there could be new music from the band on the way, and now the people who actually bought the drawings are noticing that the real-life drawings aren’t quite the same as the ones depicted on the website. The real-life ones seem to include a few hints.
In this Reddit thread, one buyer reports that the drawing he bought spells out the phrase “double album” if you look at it upwards. It also has the word “double” at the top, and, upside down under the faces, the letters L and P.
The same user notes that the band’s website refers to the drawings as “steganography,” which is the process of concealing one message inside another. The drawings also make reference to magicicada cassini, a cicada that reappears every 17 years. It’ll be back in Georgia, where Neutral Milk Hotel calls home, in 2017. They also refer to Cassini Huygens, an unmanned spacecraft that was sent to explore Saturn in 1997. Its life cycle will end this year.
If there is, in fact, a new Neutral Milk Hotel album on the way, it’ll be the band’s first since its generally beloved 1998 sophomore album In The Aeroplane Over The Sea. But if Mangum is concerned with 17-year cycles, he already missed that album’s 17-year anniversary last year. Fun fact: Aeroplane was the first album to get an Anniversary article at Stereogum.