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FKA twigs - Caprisongs review: Even performance artists wanna have fun

Tahliah Barnett is enjoying her time in the sun on this new mixtape - and who can blame her?

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By
13 January 2022
T

he latest release from FKA twigs begins with her saying: “Hey, I made you a mixtape.” Nowhere is it suggested that this is Tahliah Barnett’s third album, though on paper it looks very much like it is. It’s album-length at 17 tracks, including big name collaborations with Canadian giants The Weeknd and Daniel Caesar as well as homegrown star Jorja Smith and the rappers Pa Salieu and Unknown T. The main production collaborator is Spain’s El Guincho, who won a Grammy for his work with Rosalía.

But the mixtape designation takes off some pressure, and at this point, no one could begrudge her a bit of fun. As a musician, the 33-year-old from Gloucestershire was regarded as a heavyweight artist right from her first single, filed beside Björk for her avant garde electronic sound and startling imagery. On video and on stage, she put herself through daunting feats of physicality, learning Chinese wushu swordplay and pole dancing. Meanwhile, in her personal life, she experienced relentless racism while dating Robert Pattinson, and in 2020 she filed a lawsuit alleging abuse she claims to have suffered at the hands of another actor, Shia LaBeouf. LaBeouf has denied all the allegations, and in June last year the pair and their legal teams were reported to have held “productive negotiations” regarding the case.

In contrast, the tone on Caprisongs is predominantly bright and relaxed. It’s littered with speech samples of friends chatting and laughing. Songs such as Oh My Love and Papi Bones lose the angular obtuseness of much past work in favour of a simple guitar line on the former and bouncy dancehall pop on the latter. Though critically adored, twigs hasn’t yet had a hit single, but Darjeeling, which mixes harp sounds, chants about her childhood, Jorja Smith and Unknown T cameos, and a lift from Olive’s 1996 hit You’re Not Alone, is surely a chart favourite in waiting.

The songs were recorded during lockdown, with the guests contributing remotely, which could also explain the absence of artistic intensity. But she isn’t ready to be a pure crowd pleaser. Meta Angel pairs her choirgirl vocals with crushing, distorted beats. Pamplemousse is catchy but highly jittery and gone in a flash. One spoken interlude features a fan asking the whereabouts of her Dua Lipa duet, Why Don’t You Love Me?, which has been performed live once but is not included here.

Even so, she’s closer to the mainstream pop world than ever before here. Yet it doesn’t sound like a compromise. There’s still plenty of sonic weirdness in the corners, and she’s surely earned some time in the sun.

(Young)