Sunday, 7 September 2014

''LP1'' FKA Twigs - A Review

In what has so far been a relatively underwhelming year for the music industry, one particular kind of artist has shone through from beginning to the now approaching end. An abundance of solo female songwriters have led the way in 2014, spearheaded by the meteoric mainstream rise of Iggy Azealea and backed by quality releases from the likes of Lykke Li, Lana Del Ray and Mo. But as we enter the business end of the year we've been blessed with the debut album of Tahliah Debrett Barnett, better known as FKA twigs, mid- twenties London based singer-songwriter, producer and now creator of possibly the finest album of the year in LP1, a 40 minute exercise in electronic R&B, trip hop and dub music that introduces a brave and unique young artist at exactly the right time.

It all kicks off with an intro in which Barnett demonstrates a brief sample of her enormous vocal and production talents on ''Preface'' before ''Lights On'', probably the most straightforward and relatively accessible number on the album which eases in the listener with an infectious refrain before the more experimental stuff begins so gloriously on the mezmerizing ''Two Weeks''. On the lead single taken from the album, twigs delivers a 4 minute electronic masterpiece complete with an explosive, endlessly replayable chorus that sets a template for the kind of sensual electronica on offer over the next 7 tracks. It would be near impossible to replicate the song of the year contender that is ''Two Weeks'' again on the tracklist but that's exactly what happens on ''Pendulum'', another synth based beauty led by that voice, which this time takes a more fragile disposition as it examines the other side of attraction and relationships. ''Pendulum'' builds itself slowly on on its vocal before climaxing in an intense trip hop finish that calls to mind the work of James Blake, Barnett's natural artistic male counterpart.

''Two Weeks'' and ''Pendulum'' may be unbeatable highlights but they're backed by stellar work throughout the rest of the album as the inventive production work of twigs shines through on songs like ice cool jealously stinger ''Video Girl'' and ''Closer'', an affirmative ode to a loving savior of twigs that matches its delicate verses by reflecting the vibe of a carol recorded at the church altar with its echoed, reverberated execution.

For all the firepower that twigs invested in for the production side of things, with Clams Casino showing up for ''Hours'' and Sampha on ''Numbers'', it's both reassuring and surprising to see Barnett's name dominating the credits. Too often in the modern music scene it feels as though young artists are leaving the shift work to nameless faces in studio but twigs is one of a special breed, and the fact that she's the person behind these regularly innovative and unusual beats as well as the face delivering those exceptional vocal performances only serves to confirm suspicions that this is the beginning of a spectacular career.

All told, this is an album that 2014 needed. A much required shot of adrenaline for the current music landscape, LP1 sets the bar insanely high for upcoming artists and should strike fear into the hearts of established ones. This is a unique piece of music that dazzles at every turn and invents its own rules, all the while retaining enough synth pop charm to appeal to the masses, but hiding behind the barely conventional, Weeknd like R&B is a deeper, darker and challenging artist who is certain to continue stunning audiences for a long time based on the evidence of this 40 minute debut. If LP1 is just the beginning of FKA twigs, there's really no telling what majesty we're in for by the end.


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