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FKA Twigs’s Caprisongs Is an Exhilarating Stunner of a Release

The running theme for 2022 in music so far for me seems to be artists whom I’ve always respected, whilst conceding that their work isn’t really for me, releasing music that totally connects with me. First there was The Weeknd with his conceptual retro, synth odyssey Dawn FM, surpassing the grand, orchestral Beauty Behind the Madness and the single driven After Hours for my favourite The Weeknd record. Then rapper Earl Sweatshirt returned to form after the disappointing Feet of Clay with his most exciting and eclectically compelling project yet, SICK! Now FKA Twigs has made 2022 three-for-three with her sensuous, nostalgic, tender and uplifting mixtape Caprisongs, seeing her pull back to brighter and more contemporary sounds than her last record MAGDALENE, whilst maintaining the best of her avant-garde idiosyncrasies.

In recent months I’d grown to fear for Twigs’s artistic integrity. She’d long straddled the boundaries between art pop and more commercial hip hop, crossing over with artists like A$AP Rocky and Future, to predictably variable success. Her last release before this one was a cut for the new The King’s Man soundtrack for goodness sake! Even for this album, the single was a moody, etheral dance track with The Weeknd, and although a huge moment for Twigs, that collaboration emerges as possibly the mildest and most personality deficient moment on this tape. Some of the pitched vocals sound rather cute and The Weeknd certainly delivers a quality feature, but it was all too easy to see as a portent that Twigs was on the cusp of watering her sound down for crossover appeal.

A cynic could say that was true of many moments on Caprisongs, which sees her test the waters with a variety of different contemporary sounds, incorporating more hip-hop influence than ever before on her own music, as well as elements of dancehall, hyperpop and even UK drill at times. But Twigs doesn’t just skim the surface of these sounds, delivering generic cuts with trendy features. She dives deep for her influences, touching great up and coming artists like Shygirl, as well as well chosen established performers like Daniel Caesar and Jorja Smith. Her takes on these sounds are so resourceful and tasteful, presenting credible refractions of each sound, without for a second losing sight of her own core strengths and individuality, integrating them into an eclectic progressive R&B record, that’s intoxicating in its sensuality and dynamic nature.

The album is interspersed with vocal snippets and skits that give it a ton of endearing personality, creating an intimate and inviting space for her songs, which flow into one another with a streamlined grace and a natural ebb and flow that doesn’t feel remotely as forced as it often can on some albums. Each of the songs presented on Caprisongs is flirty, outgoing, reflective, sweet and restorative. Twigs has never been such a joy to listen to, from the coy opener “ride the dragon” with its impeccable choppy hook, to the soulfully revealing yet optimistic closer “thank you song”, Caprisongs sounds like a private missive from Twigs to her fans, with her often revealing songwriting sounding less pretentious and more direct than in her past catalog.

Twigs has been sensual in the past, but this is the first time she’s sounded sexy. Caprisongs is unapologetically a feel-good album, a 48 minute conciliatory, boozy girls night in during which you can practically smell the apple Sourz and feel the feather boa tickle your neck. But don’t for a second mistake that newfound euphoria for vapidity. On Caprisongs, Twigs is as forward thinking as ever, striving to find the next sound for modern alternative R&B, and quite a few of the multi-phased tracks here sound like she’s onto something, but that might just be testament to the depths of her raw talent that she can make almost anything sound so good, even managing to pull off a nostalgic blend of R&B and drill in the climactic “darjeeling”.

The aforementioned opening track “ride the dragon” is a chipper, sugary mash up of trap, alt R&B and art pop, followed up by the ghostly afro-swing banger “honda”. The highlights just keep coming from there with the glitchy avant pop “meta-angel”, that evolves from a slow, linear ballad that grows larger and more layered with increasingly explosive production and tear-stained vocals. I can’t overstate how impressive Twigs’s performances are on each of these tracks, and the production slight of hand on this track is exquisite. Meanwhile “oh my love” sounds like the best Charli XCX song I’ve ever heard from anyone who isn’t Charli, with Twigs autocrooning a heartwrenching ballad of reassurance, attempting to ease the discontent and insecurity of a partner who seems to feel like their relationship is failing while she’s pouring her heart into it on her end. It’s stunningly bittersweet, uplifting and heartbreaking at the same time. “lightbeamers” continues in this spirit of emotional healing and affirmation during which Twigs’ voice seems to gleam like a waterphone over the soft, pillowy instrumental, reminding someone of all her worth and beauty.

There’s also the unexpected dancehall rump-shaking anthem “papi bones”, wherein Twigs’s fabulous chemistry with Shygirl suggests what a surprising loss she’s been to the club scene all this time. This kicks off a run of collaborations on the album and the latin flavour is carried over onto “Jealousy” with rema, who harmonises with Twigs almost as well as Daniel Caesar does on the  sublimely beautiful “careless”, perhaps the most stereotypically “FKA Twigs” moment on the album, with her tremulous vocals soaring high over the sparse, staggering beat. The fragility in her voice adds to the track’s sense of tragedy, as the two offer perspectives on a relationship where both partners are intimately aware of the other’s potential to hurt them emotionally, yet are taking a leap of faith together regardless. Not for the first time Twigs mines BDSM imagery for her exploration of the sexual and emotional ties that bind, navigating the terrain where our political and primal impulses clash most contentiously.

Twigs has already teased more music in this vein (including a collab with Dua Lipa that I cannot wait for!) and any potential Caprisongs 2 has just shot straight to the head of my most anticipated albums of 2022 list. But for the time being I’m more than happy with what we’ve gotten so far, showing a more extroverted, human and candid version of Twigs, displaying a versatility and warmth she’s historically withheld from her persona. It’s one of the most endlessly exciting pop albums I’ve heard in recent years and the more I listen to it the deeper I fall under it’s exhilarating spell.

Written by Hal Kitchen

Primarily a reviewer of music and films, Hal Kitchen studied at the University of Kent where they graduated with distinction in both Liberal Arts BA and Film MA, specializing in film, gender theory and cultural studies. Whilst at Kent they were the Film & TV sub-editor and later Culture Editor of the campus newspaper InQuire and began a public blog on their Letterboxd account.
Hal joined 25YearsLaterSite as a volunteer writer in May 2020 and resumed their current role of assistant film editor in November 2020.

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