26 Jan 2015

Cosmic Vibrations: A Vapour Trail space-themed playlist

Space is really weird, and since I got given a Brian Cox book for Christmas, and the new Pond record came out, I've thought about it increasingly. It's also the subject matter of a great number of songs, because, ladies and gentlemen, whether we like it or not, we are most certainly floating in space. Although some artists say that songs about space are cliché (I think Frank Black said his most unoriginal writing was the stuff about aliens, but the cosmic songs on Trompe Le Monde are amongst the best that the Pixies ever released) so many great songs have been written about the bits of the universe, so I compiled a playlist of songs about space, sounds that sound like space, and songs that both are about space AND sound like space.

Below is a little bit about each song, why I picked it, and any arguments as to why it was included, just in case your blood was boiling a little at Wonder 2 being chosen, despite not really referencing any celestial bodies of any sort...

The playlist can be streamed in full HERE, on the YouTube.

1. Cosmic Vibrations - Foxygen
Foxygen are one of today's bands that sing about space the most - is that because they're the most pretentious? Probably. Their last album had four songs on it called Star Power, but also yielded this, Cosmic Vibrations, a song that probably made it onto this playlist on merit for having such a great name for a playlist.

2. Everything Beautiful Is Far Away - Grandaddy
American band Grandaddy's glitzy synth-led exploits around the turn of the century are about as spacey as it gets. A lot of Grandaddy's music was very anti-technology, and in a kind of Orwellian sense it focused on the dystopian wasteland that the world would become because of it; I think Everything Beautiful is Far Away is about someone that has cast themselves adrift from society for that reason. It's really haunting, but the kind of instrumental sections are really beautiful, in a kind of twinkling sparkly way; if I had my way this entire playlist would just be twinkly synth parts from Grandaddy songs.

3. Mysterons - Portishead
Right, OK, who watched Captain Scarlet when they were younger? Because I did and it was great. Everyone was like a Thunderbirds puppet, and it was about a guy that dressed in a smart red jacket, and couldn't die no matter what he did to himself (is Captain Scarlet Pete Doherty?) and so he used his powers to save the day heroically with Spectrum; a kind of cheap Tracey family kinda thang had a base in the sky where everyone's name was also a colour. And on this programme, there was invisible martians, that taunted Captain Scarlet and possessed his friend - "THIS IS THE VOICE OF THE MYSTERONS" they boomed. They were seriously freaky fuckers those Mysterons, mean beans indeed. If ever there was conclusive proof humans shouldn't go to Mars it's the Mysterons, gosh.

4. Motorway To Roswell - Pixies
Pixies fourth album is pretty much a cannabis fuelled half hour of a fat bald guy singing about aliens, and for that reason alone I think it's miles better than Doolittle. Obviously this track refers to the town where aliens did, 100 thousand per cent legit land on the earth, and what have you. It's a really freaky song, I think; it's like the only Pixies song with piano bits, it discusses how disappointed optimistic aliens would be to land on Earth, and most oddly it mentions some kind of motorway, in New Mexico? It's all very bizarre, and some might say it's why they should have let Kim Deal write more songs.

5. Souvlaki Space Station - Slowdive
Slowdive are just my absolute favourites, and this floaty song sounds sorta like I imagine floating in space in a kind of astronauty way to feel. That's why I picked it. Nothing to do with the word 'space' in the title.

6. Interstellar Overdrive - Pink Floyd
This is a really cliché choice, but god is it essential. 10 minutes of spacey, voxless music was so revolutionary in 1967. It was well before Pink Floyd did that prog rock stuff, when they were led by Syd Barrett, and all the instrumentalists were proper mentalists who gave it large on cosmic basslines and zingy keys before The Doors made zingy keys a fashionable thing.

7. S*T*A*R*C*A*R - Julian Cope
Julian Cope's Autogeddon is a fairly diverse album; the first half is really folky, with a sharp wit and razortongue; the next bit vanquishes fascists by rocking hard (with a space-folk symphony intermission called Paranormal In The West Country) and the end; well, that's an 11 minute long space-rock track called S*T*A*R*C*A*R that is basically the only song I'd ever describe as a "gnostically cosmic introspective voyage through the galaxy", tbh.

8. Elephant (Todd Rundgren Remix) - Tame Impala
"Calum!" you say "what has this song got to do with space? I know the remix is better than the original, but it's got about as much literal subject matter about space as it does about elephants! What are you doing?" "Well", I would reply "it sounds a bit spacey."

9. Oshin - DIIV
The front cover to DIIV's album is basically like a big alien seabird monster killer thing, going in for the kill, and Zachary Cole Smith wears a hat with an alien on sometimes, so I guess anything they write could probably be shoehorned onto this playlist. But on top of that, most of the lines to this song are "fuck the world, alien love", and I think that's what some ready-to-invade aliens are probably thinking.

10. You Look Great When I'm Fucked Up - The Brian Jonestown Massacre
Right, bear with me here but imagine a film where a ravishingly good-looking male lead (I'd suggest casting Christian Bale) plays a kind of green humanoid alien man, dressed as a cowboy on a space-horse chases bad guys (maybe Bruce Willis and Vin Diesel) on slightly slower space-horses around a barren wasteland of a planet that isn't dissimilar to some areas of downtown Southampton at night time. This is the song that would soundtrack that.

11. Do You Realise? - The Flaming Lips
I was compiling the playlist, thinking "gosh, I've got to avoid the cliché of using Spiritualized's Ladies and Gentlemen We're Floating In Space." The Flaming Lips' potentially best-known song spreads awareness of the exact same message (we, as in us, as in you and me are literally floating in literally space) and is probably just as much of a cliché as the Spiritualized song. But because they'd be on the playlist for the same reason, I had to pick one of them, and well, because Wayne Coyne's onstage persona is basically as some kind of balding biped glitter space-baby, he deserves the place on the playlist.

12. Hobo Rocket - Pond
All of Pond's songs are about space, like, all of them. Every single one. But this one also has rocket in the title, and I think it's talking about space rockets, not rocket lettuce, so I chose it over Frond and Sitting Up On Our Crane, my two other fave Pond #anthems.

13. Wax and Wane - The Cocteau Twins
It's really unusual for bands to genuinely sound like they're from another planet, but Scottish dream-pop band The Cocteau Twins do genuinely sound unlike every other band in the world, ever. Apart from the ones ripping off The Cocteau Twins. Because they're so alien though, I had to put a Cocteaus track on here, and this is one of my favourites off of Garlands, their 1983 offering. I don't know if it's about the moon, but the moon waxes and wanes, and the moon is in space, and this is a space playlist, so if you need any justification for this track being on the playlist, I hope that will do.

14. War - The Wands
Gosh, listen. There is just no way that that organ is from this planet.

15. Jealous Sun - The Horrors
I think the latest Horrors album is the most spacey, in that it's kind of like Grandaddy with a singer that sounds like a ghost. I think the reason I put this particular song on was not because it references the sun, which I'd argue is in space, (but not at night time, when the sky ends and space begins) but because it just sounds a bit blackholey and quasarry and just pretty damn celestial, doyouknowwhatImean?

16. Wonder 2 - MBV
My Bloody Valentine are so sonically innovative, so it would be difficult for their dreamy sounds to not be on this playlist. Instead of going for To Here Knows When, which I was going to upload with the reasoning "this is literally as dreamy as Brian Cox's voice", I've gone for Wonder 2, because it sounds a bit like a Spaceship taking off, and I think maybe it could be an alternate soundtrack to the scene in Star Wars where they successfully attempt to destroy the Death Star and Luke Skywalker's X-Wing is zipping around the trenches and divots on the planet-sized war station.

17. Space Oddity - David Bowie
OK I've made a fair attempt to avoid cliché on this playlist, but god, it wouldn't be the same without David Bowie's Space Oddity. Definitely the single most iconic song about space ever, Space Oddity may well also be one of the greatest pop songs ever written as well. Bowie was always rich in cosmic inspiration, and because it came out in 1969, people always assume that it's inspired by the moonwalk and all the supplementing moon talk; but they assume wrong. Space Oddity takes all it's influence not from the moonwalk, but from the (equally fictional) (ooh, controversy) Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey, making it just one of many David Bowie songs that takes it's influence from film or literature. Spiralling stylophone noise, Bowie's beautifully rasping voice, and lyrics about floating in a most peculiar way make this not only the perfect song to end the playlist, but the perfect song full stop.