FKA Twigs
Magdalene
Young Turks

FKA Twigs burst onto the scene back in 2012 with EP 1, which she followed up the next year with EP 2, before LP 1 arrived in 2014 (see a theme?).  She was this fresh voice in R&B and electronic music, her heavenly voice slinking around bone-crushing beats.  She then got famous for being Robert Pattinson’s, he of Twilight fame, girlfriend.  They broke up in 2017.  She has commented on the odd situation of being famous for being someone’s partner, not her own art, as well as the racially-charged social media attacks from Pattinson’s ‘fans.’

Magdalene is her long-awaited second album.  Since 2014, fans have been left the 2015 ep M3LL155X.  Magdalene is essentially a brand-new bag for her.  Her voice is fuller, more self-assured, less hesitant on this new album.  Formerly, all her vocals were somewhat sung-whispered, and while no one would complain about that, here she outright sings.  And whereas the music used to be the vehicle for her voice to slide around, slinking upwards and downwards in pitch, here, the music is more fleshed out.  To be sure, it’s still beat-centric, but there are flourishes of piano, and even strings in with the thudding beats and keyboards.

When LP 1 came out, I listened to it almost endlessly for about two or three months, and then I got really sick of it.  I haven’t been able to sit through it since.  So I approached Magdalene with some trepidation.  I needn’t have worried.  Drawing on the likes of Beyoné and Björk, FKA Twigs creates these beautiful aural landscapes, they’re almost visual in their complexity and sweeping beauty.  This isn’t R&B, this isn’t electronic music.  This is it’s own thing.  The music is, at times, achingly beautiful, such as the piano on ‘fallen alien’ or the ending of ‘daybed,’ which is this swelling lush keyboard (akin, of all things, to The Cure’s Disintegration and its opening tracks) and her voice, before the song fades out, almost visually, I see snowscapes.

Then there’s FKA Twigs’ newly confident voice.  She has always been a fan of multi-track vocals. The album begins with ‘thousand eyes,’ the vocals drawing almost directly from Soul II Soul’s ‘Back to Life’ and its opening vocals.  And then a hammering beat enters, and her vocals mutate into an almost medieval chant.  And while it is just her voice, I hear choruses, and operatic Christmas carols (as in, not the shitty ones).

But there is the fact that she is comfortable with her voice in any pitch or register.  It is powerful, whether it is sleek and sexy, or intimate or powerful.  This is also a very stark album emotionally, as she confronts the complications of life.  This was a difficult album for her, as she has been working on it since at least 2015 or 2016.  The combination of the break with Pattinson and then a surgery to remove fibroids from her uterus left her feeling somewhat bereft emotionally, and directionless for this album.

Her suffering is to our benefit, though.  It is amazing how misery leads to great art over and over, and being happy leads to schlock.  At any rate, ‘Home With You’ laments the role women usually fill of holding the firmament together for their loved ones, and in this case, our hero in this song is failing, in part because of her workaholism.  Meanwhile, Twigs’ voice is distorted and comes at us like a crescendo of a wave, crashing down over us, and then the water receding when she returns to her usual timbre.

The album closer, ‘cellophane,’ is the breakup song, or at least the most clearly breakup song of the set:

And I, just want to feel you’re there
And I don’t want to have to share our love
I try, but I get overwhelmed
When you’re gone I have no one to tell
And I, just want to feel you’re there
And I don’t want to have to share our love
I try but I get overwhelmed
All wrapped in cellophane, the feelings that we had

Why won’t you do it for me?
When all I do is for you?
And didn’t I do it for you?
Why won’t I do it for you?
Why won’t you do it for me?
When all I do is for you?

And it’s on this song that she lets her voice alone, there are few to no effects, just her and her piano, vulnerable to the world.

This is a powerful album, and Twigs makes a very powerful statement and rightly takes her place amongst the visionary artists of pop music, be it Bowie or Björk.