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The Best Albums Inspired By Outer Space

Updated February 12, 2019 285 votes 84 voters 8.4k views12 items

List RulesVote up the best album in the galaxy.

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. 

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  • Photo: Ralf Roletschek/Cornischong / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
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    Zeit by Tangerine Dream

    Tangerine Dream's 1972 album Zeit, their third release, finds the band delving deep into what is quite literally called "space music." The legendary instrumental band's ambitious four-song effort was hailed by one reviewer as an "early masterpiece" and "the best representation of the early Tangerine Dream catalog" they'd ever seen.

    Clocking in at 74 minutes - between 17 and 20 minutes per song - Zeit didn't feature a drummer - further cementing its atmospheric and spacey nature. The classic album was reissued in 2011. 

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    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. 

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    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."

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  • Photo: Kemado Records, Inc. / Amazon / Fair Use
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    Warp Riders by The Sword

    Warp Riders, the third album from heavy metal band The Sword, was released in 2010 and written as a concept album that chronicles "the saga of Ereth the archer, banished from his tribe on the planet Acheron, which is scorched on one side by the heat of three suns and the landscape for a battle between pure good and evil."

    If it sounds like a lot to process, the band's leader John D. Cronise said in an interview that the concept was actually based on a story he wrote. Whether or not that story will ever be published remains to be seen.

    "Its not been published, but that’s not to say it never will be," Cronise said in an interview. 

    "When we were doing the album, we originally wanted to have some sort of companion piece to it, a comic book or a graphic novel, but at the time we just couldn’t make that happen, it would have cost a lot of money to put that together. There’s probably a lot aspects to it that aren’t actually covered on the record, I kind of wrote the story then just chose little bits and pieces to write songs about."

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