Since releasing her first EP on Bandcamp at the end of 2012, FKA twigs has made a lot of progress. In less than two years, twigs has made another EP and a just-released, full-length album called LP1. Both were released through the Young Turks record label, home to the similarly moody and minimalist The xx.
Before releasing this album, twigs was best known for her music videos. She’s made one for every song on both her first and second EP, and her video for “Water Me” has more than 3.5 million hits on YouTube.
LP1, her first studio album, is a cerebral experience that grows better with each listen. The album is so full of vocal effects and electronic sounds that subtle intricacies reveal themselves only through continued exposure. FKA twigs has been called trip-hop and R&B. These descriptions aren’t wrong, but they don’t wholly define the sound she’s created on this album.
LP1 is a mix of bass-heavy beats and effects, and a variety of singing styles. The songs are produced in a way that keeps any one sound from dominating. The beats do back off sometimes to let twigs’ voice come out. But the busy electronic sounds are essential to the album’s overall mood, and render each song dazzingly complicated.
However, the pace of the album is slow. FKA twigs often strips the sound down to just her voice and a slow beat. This creates an eerie, spacey feel. With many moments like this, the album becomes a dark, heavy experience.
The third track, “Two Weeks,” is the closest thing LP1 has to a pop song. Other songs, like “Pendulum” and “Closer,” might have a prettier sound, but “Two Weeks” is driving and catchy. It returns to the line, “Higher than a motherfucker, dreaming of you as my lover” sung tensely and in rhythm. Twigs and Emile Haynie, who helped produce four songs on the album, layer several other vocal parts onto this line, which build in intensity and make the track the most climactic and euphoric on LP1.
Twigs has also mastered the art of using slowness to make her music more emotional and powerful. At the beginning of “Video Girl,” the music almost stops. All that’s left is a soft snare behind twigs’ voice as it stalls over the line, “was she the girl that’s from the video?” It’s an under-appreciated, attention-grabbing effect that makes it feel like she’s in the room with you.
Twigs’ voice is a lot more involved on this album than it has been on her previous releases. On her EPs, she used quiet, breathy vocals that could get blocked out by the beats and electronic sounds. Those effects are still a huge part of LP1, but the electronic side of the music backs off often enough to allow her voice to be the most important sound on this album.
FKA twigs is obviously an incredibly talented musician. Some songs are catchy, others are cathartic and others are full of unexpectedly light, airy harmonies. Covering this kind of range on one 10-song album is a rare thing. And each track is still sonically complex enough that it would be interesting to listen to as just an instrumental. FKA twigs is doing something no one else in music is doing, and she’s doing it about as well as anyone could.
5 out of 5 stars