In honor of 4/20, we’ve compiled a thorough list of the best stoner music. But let’s be clear from the start: you won’t find the usual suspects below. No Beatles, no Bob Marley, no Pink Floyd, no Jack Johnson. Just no. You already know how great those sound under the influence.
So here are a few — two from each decade, from the 60’s forward, in as many genres as possible — that just might light you up.
1. Diana Ross & The Supremes
Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard (as well as the other singers who came and went) weren’t political by nature, but throughout the ’60s the most successful vocal group in America soundtracked a decade of upheaval, the likes of which we haven’t seen since.
What does that have to do with pot? Nothing, per se, but no doubt those “turning on” to a backdrop of AM radio danced to these Motown grooves. Included in that group were a generation of gay boys inspired to take up the art of drag and, yes, lead us to the start of our own revolution.
Since The Supremes were primarily a singles group, there’s no one full album to blow your mind, but any decent best-of (1995’s The Best of Diana Ross & The Supremes is a good one) — along with a sweet edible or vape of your choice — will get you in touch with your inner queen immediately. We dare you to just try and stay butch during “Stop! In the Name of Love” or “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.”
2. Miles Davis – Filles de Kilimanjaro
The take on jazz is that it’s heroin music, though that may be more about the players than the listeners. To my tastes, the best Davis when high is 1959’s mellow masterpiece Kind of Blue and 1976’s funk-fusion Agharta, but this late-’60s joint is a jumpy, expansive trek through the Africa of your mind. (“Frelon Brun (Brown Hornet)”)
3. Todd Rundgren – A Wizard/A True Star
Some of the best “stoner music” is the kind that makes you feel like you’re high without drugs, and this record by Todd Rundgren — best known for middle-of-the-road hits “Hello It’s Me,” “I Saw the Light” and the ’80s New Wave track “Bang the Drum All Day” — is a standalone journey through innerspace.
From the buzzing white noise that opens the record with the psychedelic “International Feel” then morphs into the Disney ballad “Never Never Land,” you’ll never be quite sure where you are. It’s fragmentary and experimental — one track, “Dogfight Giggle,” is just canine noises and synth squelches — yet when it’s over you’ve had an experience unlike no other.
4. Brian Eno – Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)
Before he was known as a great producer (U2, David Bowie) or the maestro of modern ambient music, Brian Eno released some truly mind-fucking music (as a member of the original Roxy Music and then solo).
On his second solo release the vibe is surrealist post-modernism with a hint of humor. He pre-dated punk with the slashing “Third Uncle” and the global thrift-shopping (to put it nicely) brought to the fore by Talking Heads (whom he produced) and Paul Simon on tracks like “China My China” and “Burning Airlines Give You So Much More.” But he hits the sweet spot with “The Fat Lady of Limbourg” and “The Great Pretender” — slow, seductive, insidious pieces of strangeness perfect for pot (but, be forewarned, not so great on acid).
5. De La Soul – Three Feet High and Rising
Weed is more than prevalent in rap/hip-hop, and though no doubt much of the genre’s music is created when stoned, there seems to be little of it that, sonically, really impacts when high. But these Long Islanders made a great headphone record with this debut, released at the tail end of the ’80s.
From the ’60s-vibing “The Magic Number” and the Hall & Oates-sampling “Say No Go” to the soul-strutting statement of intent that closes out the record “D.A.I.S.Y. Age” here is where the streets met The Beatles and the drug of choice shifted from crack to marijuana, making it great stoner music.
6. Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel (IV)
Sometimes known as Security, this fourth release from the one-time Genesis frontman is a pre-Graceland example of cultural appropriation that somehow escaped the attention of politically correct gatekeepers (unlike Paul Simon, but that’s another story).
This is here because — one day in college — our housemate returned from Turkey with primo opium and, once smoked, we dropped the needle on the vinyl to this just-released record and no one moved for 46:08. And to this day the martialed African drums of “The Rhythm of the Heat,” the Asian modalities overlaid atop Indian chanting embedded in “San Jacinto,” and even the Germanic electronica of “Shock the Monkey” are enough to give me — and you as well — a contact high.
7. Sigur Rós – Ágætis byrjun
These Icelandic headcases often sing in a made-up language and use their guitars to sound like rutting whales or electrified violins or whatever noise tickles their fancy. And with the right cocktail of chronic you might well imagine yourself on the distant shores and majestic horizons that no doubt inspired such heady cuts as “Svefn-g-englar” and the title track of this stoner music go-to.
8. Portishead – Dummy
This is another one of those records where you don’t have to be high to feel like you’re under the influence of … something. TBH, much of what was called “trip-hop” had the same effect. From Tricky to Morcheeba to Massive Attack and more, many of them had an underlying air of menace, but this Bristol collective — at least on their debut — shot floating grooves through with old Hollywood soul. Much of that comes down to Beth Gibbons’ vocals, but the music, like on “Numb” and “Sour Times,” keeps apace.
9. Radiohead – Kid A
Here is where rock meets electronica, but also where the modern alternative gets in touch with its inner Pink Floyd. There are plenty of Radiohead records worthy of some good bud (The Bends, King of Limbs, etc.), but this stoner music classic doesn’t let up from its jittery opener (“Everything in Its Right Place”) to the cinematic drone of its closer (“Motion Picture Soundtrack”).
10. Goldfrapp – Seventh Tree
Felt Mountain is the trippiest, but the fourth release by this U.K. electronic duo is a bucolic delight, at home with upending singer-songwriter tropes (“Eat Yourself”) as it is with dramatic balladry (“A&E”) and uptempo toe-tappers (“Caravan Girl”). Throughout it all is Alison Goldfrapp’s clarion-clear voice, the best drug of choice at your fingertips.
11. Glass Animals – Zaba
English boys with roots in Brit-pop and hip-hop made the most sonically interesting headphone record in years. From its pagan eroticism (“Flip”) to its hypersexuality (pick any track, but we’re going with “Gooey”), Zaba is a fuckbook with beats, brains and bhanga.
12. Bonobo – Black Sands
Simon Green’s L.A.-based dance concept is a spliff-lover’s idea of electronic nirvana — ultimate stoner music. His fourth record is by turns mellow (“Eyesdown feat. Andreya Triana”), glitchy (“1009”), cinematic (“Kiara”) and funky (“We Could Forever”). It’s also largely instrumental, so you can get lost in its atmospherics for days and never want to be rescued.