The Arctic Monkeys' sixth album Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is shaking up the mainstream and introducing the concept album to a new generation of listeners. But it's worth noting that the Kubrick moon landing-inspired project isn't the only album inspired by space to reach commercial audiences. Over the course of several decades, there have been plenty of amazing albums with space themes in a variety of genres.
It's no surprise that there are musicians who love outer space - artists are frequently fascinated by science and even science fiction. Arctic Monkeys or otherwise, there is so much incredible music inspired by space to discover.
Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino by Arctic Monkeys
The ambitious new Arctic Monkeys release began in an unorthodox way for singer and songwriter Alex Turner - he'd just gotten a piano and housed it in his spare room, then christened the room the Lunar Surface. That titled referenced the theory that Stanley Kubrick staged and directed the Apollo moon landing - a concept that would ultimately thread its way through the project as he wrote the songs on his new instrument.
"Sitting at the piano took me immediately to a different place," Turner said of the project, which has been described as a collection of song suites that take place on a futuristic moon colony. "There are chords that came out, my fingers were falling different places, and the sounds were giving me ideas. That I was the guy sitting at the piano also gave me ideas."
Vostok 6 by Kurt Swinghammer
Kurt Swinghammer's 1999 release Vostok 6 is known as a love letter to Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman to ever visit space. The album is conceptual both in subject matter and production, as the sequence is designed, in Swinghammer's own words, as an "uninterrupted 60 minute listening experience."
Tereshkova's controversial journey into space was hailed by feminists and progressives and panned by others when it took place 1963, but Swinghammer's fascination and appreciation for the historic trip isn't surprising given his outspoken support for feminism over the years.
Moon Colony Bloodbath by The Mountain Goats and John Vanderslice
In 2009, the Mountain Goats teamed up with producer and musician John Vanderslice for a collaborative EP that was written about an organ-harvesting colony on the moon. Each of the seven songs on the effort follow a guard in the colony as he goes from being nothing more than a security worker to a lunatic cannibal.
With lyrics like "Call me John the Ripper tearing at your skin," the album is both musically surprising and incredibly imaginative in the most intense way. The album was released on limited vinyl for a joint tour that the artists embarked on, and is no longer available.
Space is the Place by Sun Ra
Called "the definitive afrofuturism album" by some, Sun Ra's 1973 avant-garde, free jazz masterpiece was an exploration of outer space that was also chronicled in a 1974 film of the same name. Some of the songs, such as "Sea of Sounds," are more space-oriented than others, but the album was light years ahead of its time.
"His activism drew its inspiration not from a moral or political imperative but, more simply and beautifully, from sound: music to change the planet, space music heralding other, happier worlds," author Paul Youngquist wrote of Sun Ra's music in a book on the artist.