A mercurial talent comes along once every few years that doesn’t just turn the tables, but instead makes the rest of the world play by their rules. At present moment, that artiste is Tahliah Debrett Barnett. Markedly in the dour wastelands of the pathetic excuse that is mainstream music, the 26-year-old is forging something invigorating, spectacularly perplexing, and most importantly, apropos to both sides of the industry – aged connoisseurs and casual fans alike. Despite the complexities and nuances that have placed FKA twigs above the rest on her pedestal, her music isn’t too distant from what’s already out there so as to seem aloof and disconnected.
She doesn’t seem to be just like any other ephemeral artiste either. FKA twigs has the entire package – and then some. Owing to her fabled past as an accomplished dancer (Jessie J, Ed Sheeran, and Kylie Minogue aren’t names to scoff at), she possesses a sense of dexterity and gracefulness that translates seamlessly over to her vocal prowess. We’ve all witnessed her utterly mesmerising presence on stage, and during her cinematographically breathtaking music videos, which often are a treat on its own for the eyes. Her presence and continuity are also assured of not only due to her years of having rubbed shoulders with the scene’s cognoscenti, but also because she’s displayed consistency and growth in regards to her musical flux over the past couple of years with the critically acclaimed EP1 and EP2.
LP1 brings more of that to the table. The utterly chilling ‘Preface’ sets the tone for the rest of FKA twigs’ debut album – and in stupefying fashion too. Her choired vocals tantalisingly cavort around the austere motifs and percussive thumps, ascending to a zenith of controlled chaos before abruptly swimming back to calm waters once more. That’s right before ‘Lights On’ starts the album proper of course. She’s made a name for singing about unadulterated lust with an unbridled passion – and this one is literally about “doing it with the lights on.” She says it’s a song about trust. Sure. No complaints though, it’s not just good. It’s stunningly good.
‘Two Weeks’ comes on right after that, and it’s understandable why the moguls picked this one as the first single off this album way back in June. The song hinges on twigs’ unguarded desperation – yes, this one too is a slice of the finest ol’ sex trope (“My thighs are apart for when you’re ready to breathe in”), and her emotive sway shines through to a level “higher than a mother*cker.” At this point we’re already set to throw in the towel and succumb to having FKA twigs take us any way she wants to – we hear songs about sex all the time, but rarely with such tone, power, and uhh… sex appeal.
Subtlety rules the roost on ‘Pendulum’, at least in terms of the rickety beats that oscillate mutedly in the background as twigs’ vocals wrap the tune up in harmonious layers to ethereal perfection. If you enjoyed ‘Water Me’ from her previous release, you’re going to dig this tune even more with its scintillating choruses. On another note, this would probably be the first track on LP1 to not be directly about sex. We think. ‘Video Girl’ on the other hand, seems a tad introspective from the singer – and the production quality on this track shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s been pulled apart at its seams, and delivered raw and deconstructed, visceral almost. Unconventional stuff in its Sunday best.
We wouldn’t mind listening to songs about sex all day long if it were delivered in an irresistible package such as this. Admittedly, our only qualm with the album was that the lyricality could have gone a little deeper instead of just delving into carnal pleasures and lost love, however much sex sells. Yet it also wouldn’t be wrong to say that this is Barnett’s best effort to date – and if she keeps pushing boundaries like she has so far, the sky is just the beginning.
This will be on replay.
LISTEN TO: ‘Two Weeks’
IF YOU LIKE THIS YOU’LL DIG: SZA
2. Lights On
3. Two Weeks
6. Video Girl
9. Give Up