Last month, musical alchemist Jack White and his label, Third Man Records, became the first group to launch a playing record into space. Was there a practical purpose? No. Did it ignite a tiny mini launch pad explosion of grand emotions and inspirations in us? Yes. That was an Elon Musk/SpaceX joke, not a Challenger Joke.
So an idea that started with a typical Jack White “really cool and pointless” idea is coming to fruition here, on the 50th anniversary of the generation-spanning cultural juggernaut, Star Trek.
Space: a cosmic cocktail with unlimited ingredients. A blank, black canvas to splatter our unconscious projections into and onto. To understand what people see when they look up into the blackness, muted by our atmosphere but still marvelous (a diminished infinity is still infinity, anyway), you have only to ask what they want to see. Do you see something personable and knowable peering back at you? Something veiled? Horror and insanity-inducing vastness and otherness? What about a new place to selfishly pioneer without first getting your own home in order? A prospecting site full of unknown treasures? Do you even look up, bro? The viewer’s motivation dictates what they’ll see in the yawning gulf, the kaleidoscope altering everything on the other end of the looking glass.
Maybe the best way for the layperson to look at space is with the same eyes with which one looks at anything - eager to learn, ready to accept an element of the supernatural, and (importantly) aware of your own vantage point. Arthur C. Clarke, writer of 2001: A Space Odyssey and a plethora of seminal works of science fiction, once rightly stated that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” The goings-on of the void outside surrounding our planet fall squarely into the category of sufficiently advanced, and mystical, magical thoughts and feelings that come when we consider space confirm Clarke’s words.
Swim around in this NASA video RIGHT before you listen and let it inspire you. Then go do something to make this world better!
SPECIAL NOTE: This playlist is dedicated to one of our favorite albums, ATLiens by Outkast, which turned 20 earlier this month. 1996 was a big year in rap (Outkast called it, too: “96 gon be that year”). Despite all that good stuff, ATLiens was the jewel that crowned 1996 for many. The songs on ATLiens are weird and diverse in a way that seems to mirror the message of the album as a whole, which Andre 3000 described as: ”Being an alien is just being yourself when people don’t understand you,” and later, “We just trying to let everybody know there’s a place for everybody in this world. You just gotta find yourself, and be true to yourself.”
BUT Andre 3000 later revealed that the album was jointly inspired by something EVEN BETTER--an actual alien sighting. We’ll leave you with Andre’s words about the album in 2010:
“We were for real. I wasn’t talking about myself. We knew somebody had to be out here in the universe other than just us. So when I talked about IFOs ‘landing in Decatur,’ I knew some folks had already seen that shit: identified flying objects.’”
Doesn’t get better than that. Happy 20th birthday, ATLiens.
- Starman - David Bowie (floating up there for the first time. Wonder and uncertainty.)
- Elegy to the Void - Beach House (exploration! “My God, it’s full of stars.)
- Dumb I Sound - Sufjan (Looking out dat spaceship porthole into the abyss - or is it your own soul???)
- Subterranean Homesick Alien - Radiohead (remembering when you used to jump around on moon dunes but now you live in the suburbs)
- Decks Dark - Radiohead (FIRST CONTACT. Also, Radiohead’s two-decades-later follow-up to Subterranean Homesick Alien, in our opinion. They belong together.)
- Into Dust - Mazzy Star (the person in every space movie who floats too far from the ship and slowly freezes)
- Haunted When The Minutes Drag - Love and Rockets (Coming in hot.)
- Dark Center of the Universe - Modest Mouse (homesick.)
- Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space - Spiritualized (missing someone.)
- Everything Beautiful is Far Away - Grandaddy (Oops, shuttle crashed on Mars and now I’m gonna die alone)
- El Chimi - Amen Tobin (right after this scene) Also, Amon Tobin wrote all of the music for the Toonami bumps, especially ZOIDS and Gundam Wing. See also: Easy Muffin)
- Dropped - Atoms for Peace (alternate song for realizing your ship is evil, this time more like Hal 3000)
- Dressed For Space - TR/ST (daily maintenance on ship. Trying to be a cheery boy.)
- E.T. - Katy Perry and Kanye West (um speaks for itself and please leave if you don’t like this song)
- ATLiens - Outkast (happy birthday.)
- Spaceboy - Smashing Pumpkins (coming home.)
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