There is a lot of music in the world. But have you ever thought about the music that is set in space? Here are a few space concept albums that fit perfectly into our summer reading theme, A Universe of Stories.
Arctic Monkeys, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
This space-inspired concept album features the Arctic Monkeys as the lounge band on the moon. It blew my mind to realize they are playing the Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino as the lounge band. Give this one a few listens to appreciate the nuance and lyrics. I especially enjoy the thought of putting a taqueria on the roof and having it be well reviewed after we start gentrifying the moon on “Four Stars Out of Five.” “Batphone” has one of the catchiest bass lines and most clever lyrics I’ve heard in years: “Have I told you all about the time
That I got sucked into a hole through a hand held device?
I will flashback now and again but I'm usually alright
Thankfully the process has been simplified
Since the last time you tried.”
If this doesn’t make you chuckle and appreciate the thought of being sucked into the black hole of your cell phone, I don’t know what will.
Janelle Monáe, The Electric Lady
Can we talk about what kind of genius you have to be to have all your albums connect to one another and tell an overarching story set in space? The Electric Lady album are Suites IV and V of the seven part Metropolis saga. Seven parts of a sci-fi, Afrofuturism, masterpiece. All the albums are fantastic. However, The Electric Lady is my favorite. As the liner notes describe, Janelle Monáe was patient number 57821 in the Palace of the Dogs Arts Asylum. However she escaped leaving only this musical composition of The Electric Lady behind. This music is relayed to Monáe by the android hero, Cindi Mayweather who fell in love with a man, Anthony Greenwood, a punishable crime. Anyone found listening to this album has broken the Droid Control laws.
Monáe is moving on an entirely different field than the rest of us will ever tap into. Reading the liner notes is a mind-expanding adventure through Monáe’s thought-process of each song and its place in the overall whole of the series. No other artist could craft such an intense, thought-out, sci-fi concept with such catchy, fun, experimental music. Monáe seamlessly mixes R&B, rap, hip hop, rock, jazz, psychedelic, dance pop and makes her own unique blend of fun. “Givin’ Em What They Love” with Prince is one of the standout songs from the album. Each album also features an “emotion picture” film which are gorgeous music videos providing listeners with even more things to think about in the world of Cindi Mayweather.
Paul McCartney & Wings, Venus and Mars
Stylistically this album is all over the place – which makes me love it even more. The space concept is not the point of this album, just a jumping off point for Paul and the gang. The song “Venus and Mars” starts each side of this album tells us the two planets “are alright tonight.” Part of the album is recorded at Abbey Road but the rest is finished in New Orleans and is influenced by Carnival. “Magneto and Titanium Man” is one of the big hits off this album. A fantastic, fast number where Paul’s lady is involved in a robbery with the aforementioned Magneto, Titanium Man and the Crimson Dynamo. Once this song gets in your head, you’ll be singing along all day.
The 2014 double disc reissue is the way to go for this one. The second disk features some big band tracks, ‘20s era jazzy numbers and a full version of “My Carnival” which is toe-tapping good fun.
This is not a concept album. Radiohead’s not going to package something into a box, it’s up to the listener to decide and categorize them. However, I could not create a space list without including this album. If you don’t feel like you’re floating in anti-gravity, watching stars rush by while listening to this lush, rangy, gorgeous masterpiece then you’re missing out. Let’s call it a space narrative, shall we?
The opulent orchestration and dreamy vibes give this album a completely unique feel to anything else Radiohead has done before. Technology, computers, space, aliens and nature show up in many Radiohead albums. A Moon Shaped Pool is no exception. “Decks Dark” puts us on the spaceship, making us think about loss and death and space. The vibrations of this song are so strong, you can feel the spaceship taking off.
I’m ready to head out to do some stargazing while listening to some fantastic music that is out of this world.