Albums of 2014 (#7): FKA Twigs – LP1 (Young Turks)
Six months on, FKA Twigs' commanding debut LP1 will still make you work for it. Complicated, heated and completely rewarding, Twigs transcends R&B in her “own damn way”
In 2014 FKA Twigs has starred in a much-debated Google Glass endorsement, been the bookies’ front-runner for the prestigious Mercury Prize (although eventually pipped at the post by Edinburgh’s own Young Fathers), and her relationship with the world’s most famous vampire (R Patz) saw her attacked by a shockingly racist Twi-hard led Twitter storm. But, more importantly, in amongst all this noise, Twigs – aka Tahliah Barnett – released a jaw-droppingly innovative debut album.
LP1 dropped in August and saw Barnett become a critics' darling. In a year that’s been pockmarked by artists misguidedly dabbling in retro-kitsch synthy-y R&B, LP1 is an album that stuffs two fingers up at all that nineties-infused nonsense in favour of a genuinely futuristic gaze. Dark, deep and heated, the record fidgets and fascinates, scattering ideas and beats across a tasting platter of almost-industrially-tinged kind-of-trip-hop. This year’s mainstream media fizz has worked hard to make Tahliah Barnett, the woman from Gloucestershire, a little less of a mystery. But when Barnett performs, the artist formerly known as Twigs becomes an entirely different being – hypnotic, theatrical and completely in control.
Lyrically blue and brazenly vulnerable, Barnett wraps her NSFW sentiments in a smokescreen of angelic, pearlescent vocals. When she commands “motherfucker get your mouth open, you know you’re mine” on lead track Two Weeks, she does it with such wide-eyed, unabashed aplomb that, somewhere, Prince must be nodding approvingly. Twigs talks about sex in a manner so intensely personal that it becomes almost confrontational: whispered confessions and half-heard intimacies are sharpened by Barnett’s assertive autonomy: “I just touch myself and say, I’ll make my own damn way.”
And come the end of the year FKA Twigs is singular, still. This is R&B for libidinous future aliens, the genre reworked and transcended by Twigs’ incisive, precise deliberateness. LP1 is soulful, unafraid to get slow, and – six months on – it’s still insistently hard to grasp. That’s the best part, though, because we’re all still many steps behind Tahliah Barnett’s individual brand of quirk.