Tapes had two sides, both 45 minutes long. You had that long to say what you needed to say and then it was time to move on. In our newest category, we’re bringing that challenge back. 45 minutes to convince someone why they should like a certain band, artist, genre, or era.
Today I’m attempting to convince you why you should love Björk in just 45 minutes (how come you don’t already?!). The full mixtapes can be found at the bottom or by clicking here: (Spotify & also Apple Music)
There was no other way I could start a Björk mixtape than the opening track to her finest album; Homogenic. The opening snare drum is so crisp and clear it focuses the listener right into the sound instantly. The way Björk delivers her vocals like she’s singing over some sort of distorted radio, every now and again breaking through to full emote, is genius.
Who Is It (4:10)
I’ve tried to include at least something from each of Björk’s albums (The brilliant Vespertine and the genuinely boring Utopia were missed sadly) and the entirely acapella vocals album Medúlla is the hardest to choose a singular track. I’ve gone for ‘Who Is It’, which manages to be more straightforward than nearly everything else on this mixtape, but also utterly baffling. Those random noises in the background give everything the sense that it could fall apart at any time and descend into madness.
Big Time Sensuality (The Fluke Minimix) (4:11)
It’s so interesting to think that such an experimental and unyieldingly ‘non commercial’ artist like Björk started with hit after hit after hit. She had 11 top 40 UK singles from her first two albums alone and ‘Big Time Sensuality’ is the first I remember hearing my mum listen to (a few years later probably given that I was two when it came out). The remix makes it sound instantly more 90s dance, the raving bassline building and building, but somehow also makes it more timeless. The original sounds just a bit dated to me. (while you are at it, be sure to check out the remix albums that Björk has released, the compilations for Debut and the Bastards collection from Biophilia are both amazing).
Mutual Core (5:06)
Taking things a fair few years on to the 2011 album Biophilia, this was the moment I went from being ‘aware’ of Björk to becoming a massive fan. It was around the time of this album’s release that I finally went back and discovered all of her other records, so it holds a special place in my heart. ‘Mutual Core’ is the greatest example of the cosmic and scientific aspects of Biophilia as a record. The way it builds before literally erupting is thrilling.
Volta is the black sheep of Björk’s discography, her most baffling release given that it saw her work with superstar producers Timbaland and Danja and come out the other side with her most clattering and noisy music yet. There’s some brilliant moments though, ‘Wanderlust’ just being one of my recent favourites to go back to. Björk’s vocal on this is so purely emotional next to so many mechanical sounds; it’s an amazing contrast.
The best Björk song. There’s no doubt about that and ‘Jóga’ finds itself in the middle of this mixtape so it creates a central moment after the waves of ‘Wanderlust’ fade out. This song soars and is effortlessly beautiful at all times. The use of strings is impeccable, you can tell that every layer has been considered by Björk, this isn’t someone writing a song and sticking some orchestra over the top. One of my all time favourite songs, I can’t think of many better ways to spend five minutes of my life.
I desperately wanted to include something from Björk’s finest album of the last two decades, ‘Vulnicura’, but just about every track is ridiculously long. ‘Black Lake’ is my favourite on the album, but I couldn’t squeeze all 10 minutes of it here. I’ve gone with opener ‘Stonemilker’, which continues a trio of string-led Björk songs. I love how delicate the vocals on this song are, you feel every breath in and out, like the song is a living being moving and pulsing.
Play Dead (3:56)
Björk’s bond theme that never was (it literally features David Arnold who wrote the score for five of those films) ‘Play Dead’ is the most straightforward song on this mixtape. Perhaps it shows the potential for the artist Björk could have gone on to be following Debut had she not delved even deeper into herself and more experimental sounds on Post and Homogenic.
To end I’ve chosen the song that closed out the only Björk show I’ve ever had the privilege of witnessing. ‘Hyperballad’ is epic, but works so well because it uses the light and shade of different sounds to up the impact even more. Danceable yet heart-wrenching, ‘I go through all this, before you wake up, so I can feel happier, to be safe up here with you’. By the time the song lifts off into full acid house I’m completely lost in it. An impossibly unique record to close out a mixtape for an impossibly unique artist.
Surely that’s the most diverse and unpredictable artist mixtape you’ll hear all year? Of course Björk’s albums and live shows are where her music truly shines, so if you want a full album to give a listen, I’d start with Post and Homogenic before diving headfirst into the rest of her now extensive discography. What did I miss? Let me know in the comments and over on Twitter @PickyBs.
Words by Sam Atkins