Björk, the Icelandic pop iconic whose career spans over four decades of originality, is a keen student and avid fan of the wondrous world of music. Having rubbed shoulders with some of the most celebrated artists in history, Björk has relentlessly indulged the work of her peers, soaking up inspiration from all mediums of artistic expression.
The singer, an undisputed pioneer of the experimental side of the music industry, is a keen student and avid fan of the wondrous world of sonic creativity. She would never call herself a complete artist as she sees music, like life, as a natural evolution.
Having been a part of the music industry since the tender age of 11, Björk has been raised within an intensely imaginative and unforgiving business. To be surrounded by the artists that have swirled around her own journey has clearly had an effect on her, for better or for worse.t From the first moment that she first gained international recognition as the lead singer of the alternative rock band the Sugarcubes, Björk has never stood still.
Since then, Björk has found a diverse source of inspiration. Whether it comes from her colleagues, her family, her home or the environment she surrounds herself in, she collects moments, feeling, senses, like the proverbial Magpie, feathering her musical nest with the trinkets of old and new. All culminating in a sound and career, unlike any other.
Back in a past interview with The Guardian, Björk once went beyond tangible musical inspiration and referenced the rainforest as a significant source of creative aid: “I need it, I need it, I need it,” she said. “I found it is actually so good for my voice, too. Seventy per cent humidity is ideal for vocal cords. It is and it isn’t different to what I grew up with — Iceland is very humid, but not as warm. I was hiking in Costa Rica a few weeks ago, and was crying inside myself. I wanted never to leave.”
A few years ago, Björk was asked by The Rest Is Noise to try and attempt to create a comprehensive list of albums that have had a lasting impression on her life. Naturally, this is no easy feat when your life has been almost entirely devoted to music and, of course, that you’ve spent your whole life deliberately not settling on any one type of music—but she gave it a go anyway.
Having grown up listening to a wide-ranging selection of music from the classic pop hits of the 1950s-70s to the more illustrious moments of orchestral bliss, settling on 11 albums was always going to be difficult. However, Björk did reference the work of female icons such as Kate Bush and Joni Mitchell as albums that have an important impact on her life.
When speaking about Kate Bush, her impact on feminism, and the role she played for women in music, Björk said: “It was kind of sexist. People thought that Kate Bush was insane. People were embarrassed about admitting that they actually liked her and I think that is something, actually, one good thing about feminism nowadays is that she is not a threat at all.” Bush was the first woman to secure a number one with a song she both wrote and performed. An inspirational figure to anyone, let alone a mastermind like Björk.
Elsewhere, Björk typically includes some obscure numbers like Thai Pop and Alim Qasimov and a range of orchestral numbers worthy of the grand palaces of old. Yet Bjork is still keen to remind us that she always has her finger on the pulse, includes Aphex Twin and James Blake.
See the full list below and find the playlist further down.
Björk’s 11 favourite albums:
- Thai Pop – Siamese Soul, Volume 2
- Steve Reich – Tehillim; Steve Reich and Musicians
- Mahler – Symphony No. 10 [performing version by Deryck Cooke]; Simon Rattle conducting the Berlin Philharmonic
- Berg Lulu; Teresa Stratas, Franz Mazura, Kenneth Riegel, Yvonne Minton, Pierre Boulez conducting the Paris Opera Orchestra
- Alim Qasimov – Azerbaijan: The Art of the Mugham
- Joni Mitchell – Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter
- Kate Bush – The Dreaming
- Nico – Desertshore
- Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
- Aphex Twin – Drukqs
- Panasonic – Panasonic EP
- Black Dog Productions – Bytes
- James Blake – James Blake