With her distinctive voice, look and style, FKA twigs possesses all the attributes of a pop star. Who would want to be a pop star though? Not FKA twigs it seems. On her debut LP, ‘LP1’, she shuns convention by making one of the most challenging, inventive albums of the last few years, in the process breathing new life into R’n’B and pop music.
Before even a note of this album is played you get a sense that this isn’t going to be any ordinary record. The artwork, for a start, is striking. A blurry, blown up image of the singers face, it looks more like a clue from an episode of True Detective than the cover of the hottest record of 2014. A glance at the track listing and lyrics confirms suspicions that things are going to get weird with nine of the ten songs coming with an explicit warning (more of that later).
The artwork and track list only hint at what an unconventional record this is. Once the music starts you really understand what an unusual beast it is. Going against the grain, everything on this record is slowed right down. Pendulum doesn’t so much flow as it slithers. Lights On is similarly measured with its oblique, jagged beats. There’s a real trip hop flavour to both – as there is to much of the album – with the influence of Tricky and James Blake apparent throughout. Twigs incorporates much more into her palette than just trip hop though, there’s tinges of gospel to Preface and Closer; Hours and Video Girl have a distinctive grime feel to them, and there’s even inclinations of traditional R’N’B on Give Up and Kicks.
While the album feels like a singular piece rather than a selection of singles, Two Weeks still stands out over anything else. A genuine contender for song of the year, it’s one of the more traditional tracks in terms of structure on the LP, adhering to the tried and trusted quiet/loud/quiet formula with its slow trippy verse building into a massive electro tinged chorus. And then there are the lyrics- so racy that they’d make Prince blush. “Higher than a motherfucker, dreamin’ of it, it’s my lovin’ /Flying like a screamin’ falcon, on our ways to do each other” goes the chorus.
While the lyrics to Two Weeks exude confidence and ambition they are juxtaposed by a vulnerability that pervades a selection of other songs. On Numbers she asks “was I just a number to you”. On Lights Out she seems even more insecure – “When I trust you we can do it with the lights on”. Most revealing of all is Video Girl in which she recollects about her days as a backing dancer (she featured in a Jessie J video) . If twigs feels insecure about her days of been a backing dancer then she can take solace in the fact that the quality of this album means she wont be appearing in anymore Jessie J videos for the foreseeable future.
As good as this album is, it’s not without its flaws. At times it’s a little too left field, a little too aware of its own coolness. You feel too, if she really wants to make an impact on a global stage, she’ll need to compromise a bit and release a few more “singles” like Two Weeks. That’s probably an unfair criticism though, and if this album demonstrates anything it’s that twigs isn’t going to change her style for commercial gain. For that she deserves a massive amount of respect; she’s stuck to her guns and maintained her artistic integrity, and made a fantastic album in the process. It hasn’t gone unnoticed either with the album having made the shortlist for this year’s Mercury Prize. You wouldn’t bet against it winning it either. It would certainly deserve it as this is avant-garde pop at its finest.