100 Albums Every Science Fiction and Fantasy Fan Should Listen To: 31-50

Music can tell a story, or split your head open like a guava. So it's no surprise the love affair between music and science fiction/fantasy has been a fruitful and tempestuous one, full of drama and strange creations. We're counting down the 100 CDs that every self-respecting genre lover should have on his/her spinner rack, and we've already reached the bottom half — here are numbers 31 through 50.

50. UNKLE - Psyence Fiction (1998)
Prior to Psyence Fiction, DJ Shadow made a name for himself with the unimpeachably classic hip-hop sample collage Endtroducing... But with this LP, Shadow went science fiction concept album, teaming up with Mo' Wax label boss James Lavelle, alien-scrawling graffiti legend Futura 2000, and collaborators like Thom Yorke and Richard Ashcroft. The album sometimes buckles under its own excess, but Shadow's fantastic production elicits chills. Also, Psyence Fiction samples Rutger Hauer from Blade Runner and Boba Fett from the Star Wars Holiday Special, for crumb's sake. - Cyriaque Lamar

49. Jean-Michelle Jarre - Oxygene (1976)
Man, we are just specks of cosmic dust blowing in the solar wind. Feel your molecules vibrating with the wonder of the universe and the cosmic grandeur of the cosmos, by listening to the original electronica mind-trip. Full of innovative sound "bubbles" and complicated baroque noodles. Except that these noodles are cooked in starstuff. - Charlie Jane Anders

48. Jefferson Starship - Blows Against the Empire (1970)
In case you were wondering why this band changed its name from Jefferson Airplane to Jefferson Starship — here's why. They made this Woodstock-friendly concept album, featuring Graham Nash, about a counter-cultural revolution against the cruel "Uncle Samuel" who oppresses the people living in "Amerika," and the rebels steal a starship and fly off into outer space to search for a new home. This is the first rock album ever to be nominated for a Hugo Award. - CJA

47. Man or Astro-Man - Eeviac: Operational Index and Reference Guide, Including Other Non- Computational Devices (1999)
The surf-rock band from outer space by way of Alabama brings you their grooviest, spinniest alien rock, complete with twangy guitars and moog synthesizer blarts. And some snappy drums. Plus little MST3K-esque sound samples of old science fiction movies. All of it makes you think you're listening to the soundtrack from some lost weird alien invasion movie from 1960. - CJA

46. The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love (2009)
America's favorite indy rock band goes a bit more rock and a bit less harpsichord for a rock opera about a young woman who meets an injured fawn that shapeshifts into a beautiful man. Soon enough she's pregnant — but there's a catch: he's the adoptive son of the Queen of the Forest, a fairy who won't let him go. And then the dark fairytale gets darker, with the introduction of a wicked rake, as seen in the gorgeous video at left. - CJA

45. Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (1992)
Richard D. James is perhaps most famous for his soul-scarring music videos. But it's this collection of comparatively understated instrumental works that melts our butter. Spare but lush, this compilation scores the perfect day on an aquatic exoplanet. - CL

44. Global Communication - 76:14 (1994)
Tom Middleton and Mark Pritchard — who also go by the moniker the Jedi Knights — produced this mysterious ambient album that evokes basking in the warm glow of 1,000 gently purring servers. Put on some headphones and wrap yourself in the hum of our planet's communication infrastructure. - CL

43. Mike Oldfield - Songs of Distant Earth (1994)
It's tempting to include Oldfield's landmark Tubular Bells, from the Exorcist soundtrack, instead. But this later album is based on the Arthur C. Clarke book of the same name, and it's even more atmospheric — and much more emotional and multi-layered. You need to listen to this electronic soundscape many times to get all the cosmic stuff that's going on. As MrMilano writes over at Discogs.com, "You truly travel to another dimension when listening to [it]. I only play it on special ocasions, such as on an expedition to the Teotihuacan Pyramids outside Mexico City, and this is a CD I always give new friends as a gift." - CJA

42. Gary Numan - The Pleasure Principle (1979)
Picking a favorite Gary Numan LP is an extraordinarily difficult task. Should one go with Tubeway Army's Philip K. Dick-influenced Replicas? 1980's Telekon? Tubeway Army's self-titled? Faced with such a choice, we endorse picking up the synthpop marvel The Pleasure Principle and fanning out from there. - CL

41. Philip Glass - Einstein on the Beach (1974)
This is the weird, challenging, unpredictable "opera" that put the master of minimalist weirdness on the map. A map made out of tesseracts, Moebius strips and M.C. Escher upside-down worlds. I listened to this album as a little kid and it gave me really fractal rabbit dreams. - CJA

40. The Orb - The Orb's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld (1991)
A two-hour house freakout beginning in Earth's atmosphere and ending with the huge ever-growing pulsating brain that rules from the center of the Ultraworld, this sprawling LP has blissful highs and devastating lows. The perfect sonic concoction to exit the ionosphere from the comfort of your home. - CL

39. Sonic Youth - Daydream Nation (1988)
The alt-rock masterpiece builds a fuzzed-out world that's both breezy and intensely sinister. Tracks like "The Sprawl" invoke the megacities of William Gibson, whereas songs like "Silver Rocket" give teenage disaffection a stratospheric lift. - CL

38. Goldfrapp - Black Cherry (2003)
Before "weird shit" became the norm for pop princesses everywhere, there was Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory. Behold the look, sound, and feel every single rock star desperate to reinvent themselves ripped from — we're looking at you, Madonna. But Goldfrapp didn't just spark the human-dog-head-grinding movement, they're great musicians. Focusing on altered mental states and humanizing objects like robots (and yes, dogs) with sexual tension. Goldfrapp ushered in a wave of uncomfortable leg-crossing and scifi fantasizing. True, Goldfrapp had been crooning about utopias and fantastic felt mountains for years, but "Black Cherry" was the breakout album that brought the popsci to the masses. - Meredith Woerner

37. The Sword - Warp Riders (2010)
This "hipster metal" band continued their trend of focusing on science fiction and fantasy themes, but also went more hard-rock and psychedelic for this concept album. An archer called Ereth is cast out of his tribe on the tidally locked planet Acheron, which is divided between scorching sunlight and permanent darkness. Cue an epic battle between good and evil, with lots of scorching riffs, warblings about magic, solos, and the occasional thrashy moment. Mostly, it's good to have a metal album about a tidally locked planet. - CJA

36. Yoko Kanno - The Cowboy Bebop soundtrack (2002)
Shinichirō Watanabe's animated ventures have a reputation for absurdly good music (shout out to Samurai Champloo, RIP Nujabes). The score to the Solar-System-hopping bounty hunter show Cowboy Bebop is no exception, thanks to composer Yoko Kanno. Together with the Seatbelts and other musical guests, this anime legend assembled quite arguably the greatest television soundtrack ever recorded. This boxed set collects this excellence, and you don't require a knowledge of Bebop (or a stash of mushrooms) to appreciate it. - CL

35. Princess Superstar - My Machine (2005)
The East Village rock/rap superstar does a "futuristic dance hip-hopera" about celebrity, in which Princess Superstar clones herself and takes over the world. Sample lyric: "my ego got a lot clones n while you gettin stoned, I'm on the ball kick kick life like a field goal." The silliness and zappy beats never stop, and her attitude carries you through — check out the title track, where she imagines having a machine that gives you whatever you want. Snort some coke off the wing of the spaceshuttle and put some nanotech champagne in your bong, and get down with Princess Superstar. - CJA

34. Meshuggah - Destroy Erase Improve (1995)
FUCK YEAH, I'M SO AMPED RIGHT NOW. I can't actually understand what the fuck they're shouting about but I don't care because I'm jumping kicking myself in the face screaming leapfalling, WHY THE FUCK AREN'T YOU SCREAMING? Actually, this music is incredibly technically complex and brilliant, and full of little polyrhythms and proggy touches, and music theory nerds geek out for hours over it even as the rest of us just feel like autoerotically crashing our cars into the sides of buildings. The guitarist severed a finger while recording this album and probably just kept on shredding. This is the soundtrack for the mutant cyborg uprising. - CJA

33. Hawkwind - Space Ritual (1973)
Any album that includes a track called "Orgone Accumulator" is our favorite. Automatically. This two-CD live album loosely tells the story of Starfarers who are in suspended animation, listening to the music of the spheres, and it's some excellent early '70s fuzztone rock. - CJA

32. The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002)
A psych-pop concept album about robot-smashing that ends with a balloon ride to Mars, Wayne Coyne and company give the somberness of existence a neon, Harajuku gloss. Sobering yet completely outlandish at the same time. - CL

31. Rick Wakeman - Journey to the Center of the Earth (1974)
Based on the Jules Verne novel of the same name, this concept album by the famous keyboard wizard is full of zizzzzzzzy moog sounds and other heavy-duty synthesizer stuff that nobody does anymore, sadly. It was nominated for a Grammy. Writes Kath, "Amazing concept album. Released when I was four years old, but I grew up with it because my big sister was hooked! I had a CD of it, signed by Rick Wakeman and it got nicked when my flat was burgled. Irreplaceable." - CJA