Five years after her mind-bending, earth-shattering debut, FKA Twigs has brought us MAGDALENE, a sophomore studio album so immersive and shimmering that it could only come from Tahliah Barnett; the world’s most kaleidoscopic popstar.
It’s been a long time since FKA Twigs’ baptism of fire into the music business; she was a nominee for BBC’s Sound of 2014, a Mercury Prize nominee, a Spotify spotlight artist and so much more; thanks to her absolutely mesmerising LP1 album. LP1 was a project that broke every rule of polished pop music, it was glitchy and unsettling, but remained harrowingly beautiful. A breathtakingly unique artist had emerged before our very eyes; but none of us anticipated having to wait this long for her next move.
While 2015’s M3LL155X EP was brought out, as was 2016’s Good To Love single, Twigs kept herself very quiet, away from the dazzling limelight that had been bestowed upon her. A guest appearance on A$AP Rocky’s album last year was the first we had seen of her in far too long, but the mission statement became apparent soon after.
2019 has been a stellar year for music in the UK. This last 12 months has seen rappers such as slowthai, Skepta, Dave and Little Simz release groundbreaking albums, bands like Foals and black midi rock the house down, and solo artists like Sam Fender and James Blake melt our hearts with powerful records and impressive hits. They all proved to us that there is plenty to be proud of back home. Despite all of this, as soon as we heard the news of a long awaited return, we all knew the year was going to belong to one woman: Tahliah Barnett.
Cellophane came out of the blue in April. It is a heart-wrenching piano ballad with shimmering vocal harmonies and agonisingly upsetting lyrics; there’s not many songs that give off an instantly timeless aurora, but this was one of them. There’s already calls that this song is single of the year, the best song of Twigs’ career, a landmark moment in British alternative pop music; all of which would be absolutely on the money. With this one song, Twigs had us all wondering just how she wasn’t enough for her love interest; as each “didn’t I do it for you” passes in the track, you hear more and more vulnerability.
The rest of the album would follow suit in a fairly unsurprising turn of events (I’m sure none of you are shocked that FKA Twigs has made, at the very very least, another good album). The deeply rooted personal issues with love, identity and mental health are placed very proudly on the sleeve of MAGDALENE, Twigs’ sophomore album; a truly unapologetic and undeniably brave invitation into the darkest paths of her own psyche. The wondrous wordplay weaves about “a woman’s work, a woman’s prerogative” on Mary Magdalene become prophet level life lessons taken from her own experiences, something which Twigs herself said was the overall intent of the album itself.
“I never thought heartbreak could be so all-encompassing” is the statement she made upon the announcement of MAGDALENE; and the way she unravels the impact of her heartbreak is awe-inspiring. So often, an album based on negativity or a broken heart can focus too much on the pain rather than the process; the squalor rather than the saviour. FKA Twigs uses the romantic blow she took and turns it into art, a conceptual masterpiece that brings you closer to the artist than ever before.
Each and every second of the nine track, 39 minute runtime is so tightly produced, so focused and detailed in the mixing and mastering. MAGDALENE isn’t the kind of album an artist wants to make, it’s the album an artist needs to make; the autobiographical project that will feel like the world has been lifted off your shoulders upon release. Is there any wonder that an album handled production wise predominantly by Twigs and Nicolas Jaar sounds so watertight and invigorating? Even the work of Skrillex and Benny Blanco on sad day is voluptuous and warm.
The albums’s production is as frantic at times as it is sombre. You have the distorted drum beats on a track like fallen alien followed by the isolated guitar strings of mirrored heart; and none of this is done by accident. It conveys the perfect ideology of what love and loss is like, a rollercoaster of ups and downs; as much smiling as there is crying. MAGDALENE’s second single holy terrain was perhaps the most commercially viable sounding song on here, opting for trap drums and a Future feature; but even that is haunting and hallucinogenic. I thought it couldn’t get better than Future rapping about taking his girl to church with drug money, but Twigs’ vocal melody in the beat breakdowns is like nectar for the ears.
The lyrics on this thing may as well have been carved on stone by monks. Twigs uses MAGDALENE to enter a new realm of reflection and healing, wearing her scars on her sleeve and turning them into powerful, passionate music. The intertwining of love and lust is hardly a new trick for her, but she takes it that extra step beyond on here; focusing primarily on detailing her lows to strive for the highs. There are countless moments where it sounds like Twigs is literally on the verge of tears here, particularly on the transcendent ballad home with you and poetic daybed.
FKA Twigs is a generational talent; the kind of artist who comes around once in a blue moon. LP1 was one of the best albums of the decade, and MAGDALENE doesn’t just weigh up alongside its predecessor, it propels Twigs to genius level. She is an artist we can and must cherish, artists like her are very few and far between.
Best Tracks: thousand eyes, home with you, sad day, holy terrain, mary magdalene, fallen alien, mirrored heart, daybed, cellophane
Worst Tracks: HAHAHAHAHAHA DO ME A FAVOUR