An echoing cavern of a record, a pained howl ricocheted around the halls of FKA twigs’ 2019 release ‘Magdalene’. Dissecting the fall-out of her incredibly public break-up with actor Robert Pattison, Tahliah Barnett was also recovering from having surgery, and was unable to express herself with the jaw-dropping shows of physical strength and flexibility she’s long been known for as an artist. Accordingly, pain, anger and frustration coarse through that album: “why won’t you do it for me?” she pleaded on ‘Cellophane’, her voice crackling in falsetto, “when all I do is for you?” By the following year, Barnett worried she had arrived at the end of the line when it came to putting her “putting my insides on blast” in her eviscerating music.
Then the pandemic hit in early 2020, leaving everyone, except the swing-snapping laptop DJs of Downing Street, isolated in strict lockdowns. Home alone Barnett filled the silence by chatting with friends to fill the time, and when the artist began recording snippets of their conversations, she stumbled across the rough sketches of her new mixtape ‘Caprisongs’. Throughout, we hear a new side to twigs in a series of voice-notes, countless collaborations and the brightest, poppiest music of her career. Shygirl, Pa Salieu, The Weeknd, Sega Bodega, Daniel Caesar, Tobias Jesso Jr, and Rema are just some of the artists who contributed to this wide-reaching release, along with a guest cameo from her astrologer.
Though it’s easy enough to find yourself within Barnett’s music, it’s also fair to say that FKA twigs never felt particularly relatable when she was whirling martial arts swords around her head and gracefully spinning around a pole – upside down, no less – without breaking a sweat. The strangeness and the spectacle was part of the world she had built. In that respect ‘Caprisongs’ couldn’t be more different. Before the swoony space-balladry of ‘Oh My Love’ kicks in, one snippet muses on an ex who claimed they were just “hanging out” after dragging her along to a full-on family barbecue (‘Oh My Love’). Featuring both Jorja Smith and Unknown T, ‘Darjeeling’ sees twigs looking back on her old school Croydon College and running laps at Crystal Palace and Linford Christie Stadium.
While Barnett has long cultivated a back catalogue of warped and twisted R&B – a skeleton of skittering beats and lurking menace, her voice cutting through like a knife – ’Caprisongs’ draws on hip-hop, drum’n’bass, dancehall, and most notably, the increasingly scrapbook-like shape of contemporary pop. As if to highlight this, one voice note that closes ‘Pamplemousse’ jokingly begs for twigs to leak the full version of a song she recorded for Dua Lipa’s Studio 2054 livestream.“I know everyone probably annoys you about this,” it says, “but that song with Dua Lipa, “Why Don’t You Love Me Anymore’…when are you gonna release it?”
After pouring her darkest moments into ‘Magdalene’, this varied and playful mixtape represents a moment of release, though it remains to be seen whether Barnett will head further into this direction, or enter a new album era recharged. You suspect, knowing twigs and her crew of chameleon-like collaborators, that she’ll probably continue to do both at once.
Release date: January 14
Release label: Young