“We’ve not got a long time here; love yourself, know your worth. . .”
This line is spoken, soft and soothing, like a friend building you up after you come crashing down. I’ve been there before; we all have. This universal feeling of recovery, of coming back stronger and more confident, isn’t a one-off. For multi talented singer-songwriter, producer, and dancer FKA twigs, aka Tahliah Debrett Barnett, acceptance and growth is everywhere.
“Caprisongs,” twigs’ first full length record since the release of her critically acclaimed album “Magdalene” in 2019, marks a step forward in the avant-garde artist’s progression, both in her musical style and her outlook on life.
Two years since its release, “Magdalene” still strikes me. It is one of my most listened-to albums. I have cried to it, drifted asleep to it, sang along with it. It hyper-malleable and hyper-detailed, just as any carefully crafted work should be, and it holds a place in my heart no matter the occasion. The album came just a short time after an intense and devastating time in twigs’ life. After having surgery to remove painful and dangerous uterus fibroids at the end of 2017, twigs had to find herself and regain her sense of womanhood and sexuality. As a whole, the album is vulnerable and heartbreaking, filled with intense and experimental production that makes it an unforgettable and emotional experience.
So when twigs announced “Caprisongs” along with its single “Tears in the Club (feat. the Weeknd),” I was excited and a bit nervous. Would she leave behind “Magdalene” completely in favor of something more consumable? Would “Caprisongs” be a disappointment? I’ll say now those fears were a bit ridiculous. FKA twigs again does what she does best on “Caprisongs”: she delivers.
“Caprisongs” opens on “ride the dragon,” with the click of a cassette and a hauntingly low voice. This voice is soon accompanied by twigs speaking, almost seductively, about what is to come. She is feeling herself, she is in her zone, her flow. Then the music begins, and the transition is seamless. The low voice becomes the bass, the beat slips in, and twigs speeds up. She is fast; she is wealthy and busy and successful. Want to kiss her? “Do it quickly.” Her confidence is genuine, and though it sometimes falters, stumbling into moments of doubt, it is always there. This confidence, fresh and unsure, is the mixtape’s backbone.
“Meta angel” addresses twigs’ issues with confidence head-on. The song starts with the line “Saggi Moon, Pisce Ven, Capri Sun.” As soon as the line is finished, a bubbling beat rises up for an instant before disappearing, almost like twigs is sipping a drink. A drink that is one half of the mixtape title’s double entendre – “Caprisongs” – which can serve as a reference to both twigs’ birth sign of Capricorn and the seminal childhood drink that is Capri Sun. In this one line, a central theme of the mixtape is established, and it is not heartbreak or pain. It’s fun. It’s unrelenting expression, no matter how over-the-top that expression may be.
“meta angel” is one of the highlights of the mixtape, and not just because of its two second opening. Rather, it is due to the song’s all-too universal theme of wanting guidance and answers. It is quiet and contemplative, almost as if twigs is at the end of her bed envisioning a life where a path forward was laid out in front of her. Then, the striking autotuned chorus comes in, and another one of twigs’ beliefs comes to light: “Throw in the fire/Ego in the fire/I’ve got a love for desire/I’ve got a pain for desire.” The beat is ever-changing, calm and brooding and sharp all at once. It rolls beautifully with twigs’ emotions of doubt and want.
That want of love, as toxic and fake as it may be, appears again a few songs later in “oh my love.” It once again starts with a conversation, this time one about a man’s refusal to commit, before transitioning into a question: “Everybody knows that I want your love/Why you playing, baby boy, what’s up?” The beat is perfect – a quick hi-hat, a soothing bass, a twirling and upbeat melody. Although this song deals with feelings of betrayal, it doesn’t feel like the end of the world. Twigs is confused, sure, but she is not spiraling in her anger and bitterness. She knows her worth. This confident, chic, and sleek dish of a song is served up again on the fast and stylized “pamplemousse” and the buzzing, beautiful “which way (feat. dystopia).” “thank you song,” the mixtape’s closer, is one of its most soaring highs. Twigs quite literally thanks the special person that helped her up from her deepest depths; it could be a partner, or it could be a friend.
In the context of “Caprisongs,” this distinction doesn’t matter. Simple piano is accompanied by a layered, distorted, and shimmering chorus. It is alien, “off” in an unexplainable way, but that is what makes it and twigs as an artist so special. None of her songs are straightforward; there is always something – an audio trick, a voice, a beat – to latch onto. Their unpredictability and subtle strangeness are human in the most inhuman way. Rapid, pulsing radio signals accompany the final verse of “Caprisongs”: “Thank you, thank you, I’m okay/’Cause you care, I made it through today.”
From the dark, layered, melodramatic masterpiece that was “Magdalene” to the introspective, fun, and insightful piece of art that is “Caprisongs,” twigs tells a story of loss and recovery. Loss of identity, loss of confidence, loss of love, and the understanding that it will all come back. Recovery doesn’t just come from others – it comes from within. So have a little fun, a few late solo dance parties, appreciate those around you, and most of all, appreciate yourself.