It's hard to imagine music that sounds more of-the-moment, more right now, than that being made by FKA twigs. Twigs, who is Tahliah Barnett, croons deceptively beautiful R&B over chaotic, experimental arrangements that boast skittering beats and lots of negative space. On her debut record, LP1, Barnett delivers on the considerable promise of her two EPs (titled EP1 and EP2, unsurprisingly). In a crowded scene full of talented artists, FKA twigs is arguably making some of the most interesting music being released today.
You can't just talk about the vocals when you talk about FKA twigs. The production is a huge part of the equation, and has been since her early releases. Take EP2's standout "Papi Pacify," produced by Arca (of Yeezus fame). The clattering drums and lurching bass (in this song and others) go a long way in making FKA twigs' work feel revelatory. This is what sets twigs apart from a lot of other indie R&B acts: She isn't content just to perform the music well. There is a willingness to experiment, to create sounds that aren't immediately familiar or comfortable to the listener. It's not just about the lyrics, the vocals, or some well-placed hi-hats: This music is the whole package.
There's an ominous note to the autobiographical-sounding single "Video Girls" on LP1, that casts a dark shadow over the rest of the release. Barnett got her start as a dancer in music videos, and in this cut, sings that she can't even recognize herself anymore. It's a quietly brutal track about the ways we change and deceive ourselves. The listener is very aware that Barnett is the girl from the video, and that she is still making peace with what's she's become (although happily, she dances in her own videos, now). The song's gorgeous, sluggish crawl belies its urgency.
The record's other highlights are the soaring "Two Weeks," and standout "Pendulum." "Two Weeks" was the first single released from LP1, and it seemed for a moment like Barnett was switching gears. While lyrically, it recalls the physicality of EP2's "How's That," "Two Weeks" is rife with major chords and feels much more lush than her other work. "Pendulum," however, is the real stunner here. With its lyric, "So lonely trying to be yours/When you're looking for so much more," it hits the emotional tenor of "Water Me," and develops a long, slow burn.
This is unquestionably some of the best, most exciting music that's come out so far in 2014. FKA twigs is evolving, and on the heels of two hugely impressive EPs, LP1 is an emphatic affirmation that Barnett is here to stay.