We love a great stoner G-funk jam as much as the next person—there really is no better soundtrack to crushing a blunt Snoop Dogg’s Tha Doggfather—but sometimes your high dictates an atmosphere occupied less by actual references to smoking and more by corporeal voices and sounds from an alternate dimension. It’s like the difference between smoking a joint and taking a few huge rips from your bong or eating a second brownie because the first one definitely isn’t working; there is a time for laid-back blazing tunes and there is a time for some seriously next-level trippy shit. Right now, we are exploring the latter.
So, being that it is 4/20, we have decided to curate a selection of the most wildly trippy albums ever made. For all the folks out there several edibles deep and all the kids so stoned that picking what music to play is a crippling decision tantamount to a panic attack, this one’s for you.
The debut studio album by the French electronic duo has all the makings of an ideal stoner soundtrack with its distinctly smooth sounds. In fact, back in 1998 it set the stage for the burgeoning downtempo genre, which typically has the perfect BPM range for lighting one up and sinking into a couch.
The string arrangements on their own are lush and euphoric, like a beautiful cloud of secondhand ganja wafting through the leaves on a sun-drenched tree. The vocoder vocals, fluttering piano, and psychedelic synths sound like a body high. Even the name of the album is trippy af, we’d gladly roam through a safari on the moon any day.
Brian Eno & David Byrne—‘My Life in the Bush of Ghosts’
Shortly after releasing their masterpiece Remain in Light, Talking Heads frontman David Byrne decamped to Mexico with Brian Eno, the man who invented ambient music and the producer of his last few records. It was there that they came up with the idea of writing an album incorporating their love of world music and snippets of speech and song they heard on the radio.
The result was My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, an album that is often credited as revolutionizing the art of sampling and is also weird as hell. The brand of maximal, frenetic funk-rock perfected on their recent Talking Heads work is still on display, but they now pulsed beneath an evangelical preacher’s sermon or NPR interviews instead of Byrne. It’s all wonderful, but the latter half of the album—in which they explore traditional Middle Eastern music with found vocal samples and a Moog synthesizer—is particularly breathtaking.
Dilla was on his literal death bed as he put the finishing touches on Donuts, inevitably passing just days after its release. To say it casts a shadow over the album would be severe understatement; the cyclical nature of life and the mysteries of existence course through every second of the record’s run time, coated within Dilla’s legendary ear for production like a fine layer of powdered sugar.
Each individual song is only about a minute and a half, but each contains a fully-developed sonic world, none of which are quite like the other. Moody soul samples are laid atop glitchy-skittering beats in tracks like “Walkinonit” and “Two Can Win,” while songs such as “The Factory” and “Waves” show a darker, jarringly surreal side to the album. But nothing comes close to the power of “Workinonit,” a pulsating, living track built from a Beastie Boys sample that is merciless in its power to thrill.
Before they became full-blown robot men, Kraftwerk were just incredibly experimental prog-rockers who happened to use synthesizers (and in doing so technically invented synth-pop, but we digress). Even without the horrifying mannequins to grab your attention, Kraftwerk were attuned to a level no one else was even capable of imagining. And it well and truly started here.
Autobahn, literally translating to ‘highway’ in German, is a stunning leap in musical evolution. Released in 1974 (!!), the music world was not prepared for the opus that is the 23-minute title track, a symphony in its own right. A shortened version went on to chart in both America and Europe, ensuring that not many were likely to forget this collective of German wizards anytime soon.
Midori Tanaka—‘Through the Looking Glass’
Midori Takada’s music can easily transport to you another world without your favorite herb. Through The Looking Glass from 1983 combines a plethora of influences in a truly transcendental way – African drumming, Asian music, and Western jazz, classical and minimalism intertwine in 40 minutes of music that strangely seems like it could be the soundtrack to any gentle breeze or deep breath.
The album artwork alone is enough to get lost in, but the brilliance of the sounds themselves make it ideal for any journey, stoned or sober.
Mort Garson—‘Mother Earth’s Plantasia’
“Warm earth music for plants and the people who love them” reads the album artwork for Mort Garson’s Mother Earth’s Plantasia, which you likely haven’t come across before unless you’re a certified Discogs freak or have spent far too many hours in the weird crevices of YouTube suggestions.
Released back in 1976, when real-life weed-smoking, acoustic guitar-strumming hippies were slowly being replaced by weed-smoking, synthesizer-twiddling hippies, the album is a fine example of incredible early electronic explorations. Spark one up and meander through a sunny, synth-filled plantasia with all of its amazing track names like “Swingin’ Spathiphyllums,” ”You Don’t Have To Walk A Begonia” and “Music To Soothe The Savage Snake Plant.”
Neon Indian—‘Psychic Chasms’
Psychic Chasms does little to mask its psychedelic character; song titles like the title track, “Should Have Taken Acid With You” and “Terminally Chill” are about as subtle as powering up a jackhammer at three in the morning. But while Neon Indian’s landmark debut may lack mystery, it more than delivers on the promise of its title: this LP is truly what the inside of your brain sounds like on LSD.
Arriving in the vanguard of ‘chillwave’ in the hot summer of 2009, Psychic Chasms has aged splendidly, far outpacing any of its peers at the time. Hidden amongst the tropically warm synthesizers and layer upon layer of reverb are achingly nostalgic tales of teenagerdom: kissing by the pool, sneaking out of the house, and, yes, taking acid with your crush. And just like your actual teenage memories, time has shorn these tales of their earnestness and embarrassment and replaced them with simple, sweet yearning.
Panda Bear—‘Person Pitch’
Panda Bear has spent his entire life making trippy music. As a founding member of Animal Collective and as a highly-acclaimed solo artist, his body of work consists of one avant-garde electro-indie rock exploration after another. But the crown jewel of his career is still Person Pitch, his third solo record which just recently celebrated its tenth birthday. But don’t be fooled, time has done nothing to dull the stunning innovation of this magic LP.
The album is more of a mirage than a piece of music, offering a shimmering reflection of confectionary melodies, yawning chasms of reverb, wildly obscure samples and vocal loop after vocal loop, none of which sit still long enough for you to pin down. From the 12-minute epics of “Bros” and “Good Girl / Carrots” to the stunning introspective explorations of “I’m Not” and “Search for Delicious,” Person Pitch is a trip in every sense of the word.
Trip-hop is perhaps a rather silly name for a genre, evoking images of annoying white people with dreads and the smell of dirty bong water. However, one of trip-hop’s most seminal albums happens to be an ideal soundtrack for jazz cabbage inhalation. From 1994, Dummy has got it all – perfect chill-out percussion, psychedelic samples, fuzzed-out guitar, Beth Gibbon’s angelic voice, and just the right amount of record scratching noises. “Glory Box” is possibly one of the best closing album tracks of all time, and it is lowkey a feminist anthem.
The most 420-appropriate album name on this list, Dopesmoker is a mere two songs long, mainly consisting of the epic 63-minute title track. It is undoubtedly peak Stoner Metal, a high point (pun definitely intended) for the very real music genre.
If you make it through the first eight minutes or so of dank distortion, take in the lyrical genius of opening lines “Drop out of life with bong in hand / Follow the smoke toward the riff filled land.“ If the hour-long A-side doesn’t satisfy, there’s also “Holy Mountain” on the flip side of the record in all its live, gnarly glory.
Need more lists in your life? Check out our ranking of the best Kendrick Lamar guest verses right here.
- Text: Jake Boyer and Bianca Giulione