In no particular order, and without prejudice. Thirteen here - I would probably include still more Bowie and some Police, if I had room in my lifeboat.
Fleet Foxes: Fleet Foxes
This album has been in steady rotation in my playlist this winter. "White Winter Hymnal" is probably my favourite song from it.
David Bowie: Alladin Sane and Scary Monsters
I won't explain, except to say that Alladin Sane is good for grooving, and Scary Monsters is one of my go-to writing soundtracks. In this 1973 recording, Bowie performed "Time" as Ziggy Stardust.
Tom Waits: The Black Rider and Mule Variations
I assume there would come a time, should I in fact be washed ashore on some desert island, that I would go completely looney tunes. Black Rider, with its weird circus-themed catalogue of not good things, would be a perfect off kilter soundtrack. It's worth it, just so I could play "November" over and over. From Mule Variations, "Filipino Box Spring Hog" is a perfect song for jumping around. "Come on Up to the House" is redemption in music form.
Dead Man's Bones: Dead Man's Bones (Featuring the Silverlake Conservatory of Music Children's Choir)
I heard Dead Man's Bones for the first time on Rue Morgue Radio. It was a while before I figured out that their spooky sounding frontman was Ryan Gosling. Their 2009 album contains spooky songs about zombies and ghosts (and maybe superheroes?) and makes terrific use of a children's choir. It's strong from start to finish, but you might have already heard "My Body's a Zombie for You," so here's "Lose Your Soul."
Kate Bush: The Dreaming and The Kick Inside
I could wax poetic about Kate Bush, but I think I'll just quote YouTube user cloudboheme:
Kate Bush is probably one of the only people I can think of who could twist and convulse wildly in a ballerina costume surrounded by jesters and minotaurs, rollerskate around wearing a white smock and a Dunce hat, shift her voice pitch and tone from high to creepily low, and still manage to come out as a class act. Every time. Thank you to the fabulous Kate for restoring my faith in originality and inspiration.
DeVotchKa: Una Volta
You might know DeVotchKa because they composed and performed much of the soundtrack of 2006's Little Miss Sunshine. In 2003, they came out with the album Una Volta. It was exactly the right mix of sad and hopeful for me that year, and it has stuck with me.
Miho Hatori: Ecdysis
My music collection has a little tide pool in it, in which Japanese girl musicians float. Miho Hatori is the best of the best. I bought Ecdysis on the strength of the samba-inspired "Barracuda," but I've played it over and over from start to finish.
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Let Love In
Not my only Nick Cave record, but the one I return to again and again, if only to listen to "Red Right Hand." For when I"m all alone on the island and I need to pretend I'm badass.
Leadbelly: Absolutely the Best
Blues is underrepresented on this list. If I could only take one blues album to a desert island, it would be this Leadbelly collection. (Nirvana covered it, in case it sounds familiar.)
Gustav Holst: The Planets
Another soundtrack for writing.