Album Review: FKA twigs, ‘CAPRISONGS’

    In FKA twigs’ music, different shades of intimacy unravel with the kind of fluidity and resonance few artists can replicate. “I’ve got a love for desire/ I’ve got a pain for desire,” she sings on ‘meta angel’, which finds the British polymath reckoning with universal forces beyond her control more than any romantic interest. But as resplendent as it is, this song off her latest project doesn’t reach for the revelatory transcendence of 2019’s MAGDALENE, nor does it anchor in the vulnerability of heartbreak; it simply shows twigs in the presence of her own swirling thoughts, alone, searching for light in the face of uncertainty. As the title might suggest, she’s self-aware and wary of making things sound cloyingly ethereal. “That makes it sounds so easy/ A pretty picture with a quote,” she admits, “I get confused with what I really want.”

    If CAPRISONGS is an attempt to let loose by utilizing the mixtape format, it’s a move that also allows twigs to center herself and her surroundings in a way she never has before; its carefree nature opens up a space for that confusion, for exploring different manifestations of that desire without undermining its force. The advance single ‘tears in the club’, which saw twigs teaming up with the Weeknd and seemed to hint at her most pop-centric effort to date, takes on new emotional weight in the context of a record that doesn’t quite fit that description – a sad banger about trying not to use others as a source of validation and belonging, in which the dance floor provides only a temporary escape. (The Weeknd’s verse might not be the most inventive – rhyming “motions” with “emotions,” followed by a plea to “let it out like therapy” – but it’s serviceable.) ‘honda’ strikes at a similar mood, but the more dynamic instrumental and infectious interplay between twigs and Pa Salieu really drives the point home: two people whose chemistry is so uniquely liberating that it’s the rest of the world that seems alien, yet theirs to conquer.

    It’s refreshing to hear twigs embrace the chaos around her in a way that’s both lighthearted and occasionally unpredictable. The Shygirl collab ‘papi bones’ offers a euphoric take on dancehall, a reminder that part of the fun of this journey comes in trying out new sounds and ideas. For as many guests as there are on this album – including Daniel Caesar, Rema, Jorja Smith, plus production credits from Koreless, Mike Dean, Arca, Fred again…, and Sega Bodega – collaboration is as much about the thrill of discovery as it is about creating a space where the artist is most comfortable. Even when she knows what she wants, like on the memorable ‘oh my love’, the stars don’t always align; the glistening ‘lightbeamers’ highlights just how much of the project centers on the singer’s own aloneness, contorting her voice the more she dissociates: “Are you running from your life?/ Beat down ’cause there ain’t nobody on your side.” twigs has total command throughout, though her playfulness rarely undercuts the songs’ emotional backbone.

    There are moments, however, where twigs and her co-executive producer El Guincho seem to ride a familiar formula ­­– more emotional than sonic, coasting on a kind of precious melancholy – without doing much to elevate it. This leads to underwhelming cuts like ‘jealousy’ and ‘careless’ on the second half of the record that might have been cut from a studio album and aren’t adventurous enough to justify their placement here. Interspersed across the tape are voice memos and soundbites that make for an all the more intimate listening experience, the kind that would only make full sense if you were part of that original exchange. As interludes, they fill out the space between the songs in ways that are sometimes enriching, particularly when they offer insight into the personal and creative process behind the project. “It’s like elevator music but you’re going to the fiftieth floor,” someone comments on the intro to ‘which way’, to which another responds, “Made me realize I have no thoughts though,” thus laying the ground for one of the most blissful and self-consciously unfocused tracks here.

    But the decision to then close out the song on a much heavier note illustrates how some of CAPRISONGS’ biggest revelations aren’t always given the right space. As much as the spontaneous nature of the project is part of its appeal, it can also take away from some of its more emotionally significant moments. Ultimately, though, the mixtape is more about the anticipation of growth than the realization of it. You could say it’s about anticipation in general – an essential component of desire, which makes sense in a record where that feeling often remains hazy or unfulfilled. There’s even a bit where someone begs for twigs to release her much-awaited Dua Lipa collaboration ‘Why Don’t You Love Me’, which isn’t included on the album. What we do get is glitchy vocal effects that have drawn comparisons to another contemporary pop star, Charli XCX, though CAPRISONGS has more in common with the freewheeling spirit of her 2017 mixtapes than any emergent sound – and the promise of bigger things to come. twigs herself spends much of ‘ride the dragon’ waiting for a lover, “skipping through the city/ Feeling pretty with nobody to get on.” The moment might never arrive, she suggests, but skip around the record, and you’ll find plenty of reasons to revel in the freedom.

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    Album Review: FKA twigs, 'CAPRISONGS'In FKA twigs’ music, different shades of intimacy unravel with the kind of fluidity and resonance few artists can replicate. “I've got a love for desire/ I've got a pain for desire,” she sings on ‘meta angel’, which finds the British polymath reckoning with...