Photo: Santiago Felipe
Björk is iconic. There are no two ways around that, from inspiring artists across genres, from Radiohead to Missy Elliot, it is hard to imagine what the musical landscape would look like today if it were not for Björk’s wide array of influence. Throughout Björk’s expansive decade-spanning career in the music industry, she has not only pushed the envelope of modern pop music with her avant-garde sound but has influenced the worlds of fashion and film as well. Without Björk, Michel Gondry, the visionary director behind her earliest music videos, may have never gone on to create Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or direct iconic music videos for the likes of Paul McCartney, The White Stripes, and Daft Punk. And in the world of fashion, Björk paved the way for music-fashion icons like Kanye West and Lady Gaga with her consistently experimental and avant-garde challenges to and collaborations with fashion designers.
However, before Björk was the music landmark she is today, she was a wunderkind out of Iceland whose foray into music was never easily defined or typified by conventional genres. Constructing a notable and lasting career of crafting top-charting pop utilizing everything from experimental electronic elements to modern renditions of jazz classic, Björk proved to generations of artists, particularly young, female artists, that they were free to take unorthodox, genre-pushing approaches with their music. So, in celebration of Björk’s continuance as a music inspiration to this day and phenomenal ninth album Utopia, we highlight six female-led acts who aren’t quite like anyone else but are most certainly Ones to Know if you’re a fan of Björk.
Let’s Eat Grandma
There’s something immediately eerie yet familiar about Let’s Eat Grandma. Comprised of childhood friends Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth, the teenage British duo create otherworldly pop numbers that are as charming and sinister as the original Grimm’s fairy tales the duo seem to draw inspiration from. Let’s Eat Grandma’s ethereal and unconventional pop numbers found on their debut album, I, Gemini, may be the result of mostly having been written when the duo was younger, during their playtime activities that originally gave birth to the band. The result, thematically and sonically, is something not found in most genres, let alone pop. Through means of airy, falsetto vocals, recorders, and handclapping-game percussion, Let’s Eat Grandma transports the listener to a twilight-lit world of childhood folklore abounding with shadows in every corner.
Live Impact Area Legacy Interface Adapter, more popularly known as LIA LIA, is a Berlin-based pop artist whose modern take on pop is oozing with nuances of the digital space that paved the way for it. Before settling in Berlin, the enigmatic LIA LIA spent her time trotting across the globe in cities such as Shanghai, Buenos Aires, Santiago, and Cologne. The 19-year-old artist currently only has three tracks to her name, but each of those three tracks showcases a wellspring of talent all backed by a well-defined visual aesthetic. In both her music videos and music itself, ‘80s sci-fi elements flourish, giving new life to chilling synth-pop production and vintage technological visuals. The clear aesthetic control LIA LIA exhibits over her music and accompanying visual elements leaves one excited for the future of Live Impact Area Legacy Interface Adapter.
Kelly Lee Owens
Photo: Burak Cingi
One aspect of Björk’s repertoire that made her such an interesting artist was her love and fascination for incorporating newfound electronic sounds and one of the most interesting, rising artists in electronic music is Kelly Lee Owens. Falling somewhere between remarkable cavernous techno and dreamy, spectral pop, Kelly Lee Owens is spellbinding. The London-based producer, singer, and songwriter music career’s beginnings were certainly atypical, as she originally took more of a product-facing approach, interning for the notable XL Recordings and working in a series of record shops before delving into to the realm of electronic music, lending her vocals to multiple tracks on Daniel Avery’s Drone Logic. Kelly Lee Owen’s 2017 self-titled debut album, Kelly Lee Owens, makes electronic music feel warm and inviting, while still providing a space large and varied enough to showcase the intricacies of Owen’s craft. The way in which Owens so brilliantly bridges the worlds of pop and electronic music to make it her own is reminiscent of Björk’s own talent for blending the two, as most notably seen in “Hyperballad.”
When it comes to active experimentation both sonically and on a larger scale in today’s music landscape, it’s hard to go long without mentioning indie electronic rock band, Hundred Waters. The trio, made of Nicole Migilis, Trayer Tryon, and Zach Tetreault, originally formed after meeting in middle school and would go on to release their well-received debut album Hundred Waters in 2012. From this point on out, is where Hundred Waters’ career takes an unexpected turn, as they signed to Skrillex’s record label OWSLA, which was known for prominently hosting high-profile electronic dance music acts. Despite this unlikely collaboration, or possibly because of it, Hundred Waters would go on to release the remarkable The Moon Rang Like A Bell. Applauded by critics and audiences alike, The Moon Rang Like A Bell exemplified the band’s talent for utilizing atypical elements, sampling neighboring police sirens and sessions recorded over Skype calls, to craft immaculate and accessible pop. Since then, the band has gone on to form their own music festival, FORM Acrosanti hosted in an experimental town in Arizona, and continue to release experimental yet accessible pop, such as on 2017’s Communicating.
While Björk was influenced by and made use of the trip-hop that surrounded her musical upbringing, a new generation of artists are utilizing the hip-hop style beats that influenced theirs. Enter Rina Sawayama, a Japanese-born, London-based artist whose digi-pop stylings leverages ‘90s and early-2000 hip-hop beats to invent something entirely new from cherished sounds. Sawayama originally studied psychology, politics, and sociology at the University of Cambridge where she was in a hip-hop group with Theo Ellis of Wolf Alice. Not finding joy in the world of academia, Sawayama fully immersed herself in music and modeling, shooting campaigns Nasty Gal, Ally Capelino, Jourdan Dunn, and others. Proving herself a double threat, Sawayama released her highly praised debut album RINA in 2017 cementing herself a sensational new voice in the world of pop. And it’s no surprise either, considering the infectious infusion of pop and R&B permeating every minute of Sawayama’s RINA. Rina Sawayama is an artist who is confounding and intriguing for her talent to be nostalgic yet futuristic, all at the same time.
Allie X is much more than a pop artist. Alexandra Ashley Hughes, the person behind Allie X, present not only her persona’s aesthetic to near perfection but brings that level of artistic vision to everything associated with Allie X. Every aspect of Allie X’s visual accompaniment is undeniably haunting, stylistically crafted works of conceptual art. In addition to providing a viewing experience that is avant-garde in nature, the way in which Allie X releases her music and interacts with fans is nonconforming in nature, releasing her music as a series of five planned multimedia releases. Allie X’s uncharacteristic approach to pop music and all its facets may possibly come from her theatrical nature that was cultivated during the singer’s youth, being a noted fan of classical piano, opera, and musical theatre. Arguably, this is what makes Allie X such an interesting act to follow. In CollXtion I, CollXtion II, and every video project she’s yet to release, there’s this feeling of transforming something classical into something unconventional and new.