Album Review: FKA twigs – LP1

“What kind of music is FKA twigs? Like, what genre?”

“…um, yes?”

For months I’ve grappled with piecing together how to holistically describe FKA twigs’ sound without a paragraph long, abstract explanation. Then, finally, on a glorious Tuesday I had a startling epiphany –

It’s impossible.

FKA twigs, aka Tahliah Barnett, is taking R&B to a very different frontier. We mere mortals would say it’s avant-garde, electronic noise blips flitting and fluttering with slick, sex-oozing lyricism. FKA twigs sees it as a new form of punk.

Huh. Okay, sure, let’s go with that.

Trying to define FKA twigs’ sound, which pushes genres to their extremes (probably to the delight of all the producers who worked with her), brings to fruition the wildly experimental age of post-modernist, well, modernism. Sure, we’re getting high brow by even attempting to describe the 20-teens electronic music boom but now, approaching the later half of the decade, we’re finally beyond sampling nostalgia and traversing familiarity. We’re not even returning to the roots of the first electronic music ever created – we’ve entered a new era of music production and its consumption and FKA twigs is pushing us to think beyond any physical capacity. Boasting production credits from Clams Casino, Blood Orange, Paul Epworth, and Sampha we already knew LP1 was gonna take us on ethereal adventures on its release.

And holy shit, were our minds blown to smithereens.

Barnett gets us started on an, er, strong foot with “Preface,” which is arguably one of the most experimental and dissonant songs on the album, where she is clearly, and admittedly creepily, telling us she isn’t fucking around. She takes sounds, destroys them, almost haphazardly puts them back together, and then drenches us with provocative, raw lyricism. The bass is dramatic, her use of negative space is arguably more poignant than any other aspect of her songwriting, and the drum beats leave us jittering.

The most refreshing quality of LP1 is that the singles which made her famous aren’t necessarily the most striking songs on the album. Like The xx’s near-perfect debut album, FKA twigs created a relationship concept record with LP1 and it’s a body of work that any listener can find camaraderie in. Dealing with issues of trust and acceptance in “Lights On,” violent, demoralizing desire in “Two Weeks” and “Hours,” loneliness and loss in “Pendulum,” spurned anger in “Video Girl” and “Numbers,” and denial in “Closer” and “Give Up,” we’re taken in on that ride with her. We, as listeners, have been there, we’ve shared those same gut-wrenching feelings, and she gets as raw as we’ve felt but could never express in our own, shared, darkly-tinged memories.

The beauty in FKA twigs’ debut album lies not only in realism and relatability, but how on point each produced track resonates with her lyricism. “Numbers,” goes from an aggressive, jarring song brimming with accusatory rage on being a spurned lover, though quickly manifests into emotional melodic lines in its climax, when FKA twigs lets loss and pain shine through her voice. Her music is sweeping, taking us on an all-too familiar turbulent emotional ride.

The album is primarily dissonant with some level of radio playable, digestible songs. It took me a few listens to really get into the album but once I had that initial breakthrough, I haven’t been able to stop playing LP1 in its entirety. My suggestion? Listen to it on headphones after a play or two on large speakers late at night. You’ll hear the gorgeous nuances and minute subtleties that only a personal listening session with FKA twigs singing solely for you can provide.

Some stand-out songs include “Lights On,” “Hours,” “Pendulum,” “Numbers,” and “Closer.”

B+

You can buy her album now from Young Turks.

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