Words by Asad Raja
Twigs is no stranger to vulnerability. Her music is often soul bearing in a transcendentally anguished kind of way. That’s why the central theme of CAPRISONGS, of fighting against the melancholy that defines this vulnerability is, in a way, her most vulnerable angle yet. It’s spelt out for us in a conversation snippet at the start of ‘meta angel’: the tide of sadness Twigs has become familiar with is something she genuinely wishes to defy, rather than become numb to or fetishize. The affectionate, spirit-lifting dialogue is reflective of a connecting theme, of rejuvenating through love, togetherness, and fun. It’s a theme that’s evident not only musically (some of FKA’s most liberated, inclusive and danceable songs are on here) but in a more literal sense too with the long and glinting feature list (MIKE DEAN, Arca, Pa Salieu, The Weeknd, Shygirl, Daniel Caesar, Jorja Smith, Unknown T, Rema, Lous and The Yakuza – no this isn’t a fantasy festival line-up).
‘meta angel’ picks up where Twig’s last album, MAGDALENE left off. Her ethereal vocals that backdrop the track are a lifeline, as she sings in her effortlessly angelic register about her ongoing doubt and insecurity, heavy-ing figurative curtains that she resolves to draw back to let in happiness. The drums on this track, like several others, are amazing (MIKE DEAN’s influence is clear) as they continuously morph and duet with Twigs’ looped “in-my in-my in-my” persistent through the chorus, all the while adding a driving resilience and grandness.
Like ‘meta angel’, the more light-hearted ‘which way’ nods to the self-doubting origin point in Twigs’ transition – a skin not fully shed. The oversized synth croaks that open the track are described perfectly by the conversation snippet at the start: “It's like elevator music, but you're going to the fiftieth floor”. Fast-paced, shuffling dnb-style drums then come out of nowhere (it really works). Twigs sings about not knowing which way to go with a carefree nonchalance that makes the track sound like a snubbing dance in the face of her own scrutinising overthink. The track features a brilliant line in opposition to her self-doubting inner voice: “I had a good job and I left / I left because I thought it was right / Left, right left, right.” The idea of trusting your instincts and always moving forward is repeated in Pa Salieu’s monologue at the start of ‘honda’ – “When life gives us lemons, we just take in the essence / Baby, don't look back, don't look back”.
‘honda’ is one of several bangers on this album, including more than a couple where Twigs puts her own mark on a sound outside of her usual canon. There’s the rap / drill direction on ‘honda’ and ‘darjeeling’ (she’s pretty much barring on each, with a bossy, pronounced delivery on the former and a skippy flow on the latter). There’s the icy, crystalline banger that is ‘tears in the club’ (which I reviewed when it was released as a single) capturing a Twigs hamstrung by lusting. There’s the super playful and pink hyperpop-inspired ‘pamplemousse’, with its hollow, bouncing drums and falsetto vocals. There’s the drenched, dancehall club-crack ‘papi bones’ with Shygirl. And there’s the catchy and smooth afrobeat vibes of ‘jealousy’ with Rema. The opening track, ‘ride the dragon’ is a banger too – it’s a perfect first taste of the album’s new sonic direction for Twigs, with the beat drop hitting like a caffeine injection as her vocals instantly go from slow and stretched to hyper and accelerated over knocking drums and low, hydraulic-sounding backing vocals. “I’m still that mysterious bitch” she croons in the track’s intro. Despite being in a transition stage, the enchanting aura that makes her so inimitable is going nowhere, and her impetus to greater confidence means she’s not afraid to truly flaunt it this time round.
For Twigs, pushing through to happiness doesn’t demand erasure of painful memories. Rather it offers a fresh, self-loving, advocating vantage point to view them from, finding the sweetness in the bittersweet. She offers such musings on the more tender tracks. On ‘oh my love’, she speaks about a romantic interested who isn’t committed but isn’t fully out of the picture either. She delivers three different melodies over the synth fog, plucky guitar and quenching drums, with a playful, sticky hook that ties it all together. The spoken outro concludes the track with nurturing wisdom: “We've not got a long time here, so love yourself, know your worth”. ‘lightbeamers’ is a centrepiece of the project. Over twinkling, lullaby production, Twigs speaks directly to the “hard dreamers”, prescribing a potent dose of self-love: “When you smile, does your tongue come through? / When you cry, do you feel brand new? / Put yourself in the room / You're so beautiful, you are the perfect view”. The chorus is one of many examples on the mixtape where Twigs tries on a new voice (this one sounds like a cross between Tierra Whack and 645AR). ‘minds of men’ offers reflections in a similar vein as MAGDALENE. The delicate keys and vocals combine with Brazilian funk drums as Twigs focuses on the beauty and harmony found in women fostering a safe space for the emotions of men. The track leads nicely into ‘track girl interlude’, which features a collage of conversations about relationships over meditative moans, like a séance for lost loves.
The closing track, ‘thank you song’, is a beautiful, heartfelt moment where Twigs thanks those who saved her through their love before she’d learnt to love herself. Delicate piano keys accompany Twigs’ vocals as she recounts a companion providing her solace in moments of darkness. A weight and magic is added on the chorus as her vocals turn layered and begin to climb, seasoned with snappy drums and synth whirs in the outro to end CAPRISONGS on a high. FKA Twigs’ superb third project is, like her previous two, an exercise in feeling viscerally, like juicing fruits to their husks. The difference this time is the deliberate desire to taste nectar (or at least citrus, so that even if it’s sour, it’s also a reason to bare teeth and smile).