Only two years into her recorded career, London artist and producer, Tahliah Barnett, better known as FKA Twigs, is yet to put a foot wrong. From visually breathtaking videos to sporadic, oddball pieces of pop, she’s both divided and captivated audiences with a flair for innovation not seen yet this decade.
There’s a certain fragility to the clown-like, album cover for LP1 and it’s a perfect visual companion for an album which is sexually-loaded and confidently feminine yet also gentle and soft. While some of the lyrics could be considered controversial (“my thighs are apart for when you’re ready to breathe in” from Two Weeks for instance) she washes them in synths and sings in a whimsical tone, almost as to enter your subconscious rather than affect you immediately.
Such is the presence of LP1. There’s a chance that the first listen will wash over you but it hovers with unconventional melodies and vivid soundscapes that are too remarkable to be forgotten. The first tracks, Lights Out, is a choice example of this. On the surface it’s a minimal, one-dimensional track but dig a little deeper and you’re exposed to dripping percussion, soul-rendering double bass and lyrical poignancy. It’s an after-dark tune that traverses issues of sexual self-confidence and intimacy, at that.
The whole album is sexually charged in the most graceful of ways. On Two Weeks she delicately places a microscope on the most intense of sexual attractions while Hours is a frozen snapshot into a passionate embrace, lips on lips. While the lyrics are the most vivid portrayal of that, the instrumental is equally effective in building those moments. In Hours the music rushes with intensity and then backs off, creating gradual climaxes that are quickly dispelled by a glitchy beat.
Away from sexual prowess, she also delivers on autobiographical tunes. Video Girl details her history as a dancer for the likes of Britney Spears, N’Sync and Christina Aguilera. The elongated, wobbling synths and whimsical vocals have the same fluid motion as that of a dancer, with the 808s adding an RnB flavour.
The way that Twigs marries the instrumental with the themes of the album, is one of its greatest triumphs. Pendulum sees a gently undulating beat underneath lyrics like “So lonely trying to be yours/ What a forsaken cause”. It’s both heartbreaking and fascinating listening to the beat teeter on an awkward edge, a pendulum, if you like. While at times she’s a broken woman, at other times she’s defiant. On Give Up she digs her toes into the sand, singing “I know that sometimes you’d wish I’d go away/ But I’d wish that you’d know that I’m here to stay”.
Time could be given to dissecting her different influences from modern hip-hop to Sade-inspired RnB, but ultimately LP1 is more than that. It’s a pocket of music that has only been explored by Twigs thus far. It’s one of melodic twists and turns, intimately personal lyrics and industrial beats. She perhaps sums the album up best on Closer when she taunts, “closer, I’m here to be closer”. That she is, with LP1 giving a vivid insight into her life. Artists have been honest and personal before, but not with the same effect as Twigs. LP1 doesn’t only live up to the hype, it sets a precedent for music in 2014.