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November 14, 2014

Shuffle presents an FKA Twigs retrospective

It was late summer when FKA twigs’ LP1 dropped. We’re now well into November and it is the only thing that I consistently listen to. This can be credited to a few things: my mind is simple and can’t let go of the past, LP1 is destined to be a timeless classic and can be revisited again and again, or the music that other artists have released since is just not cutting it. Let us be diplomatic and settle with the idea that it’s probably a combination of all three.

Twigs, or Tahliah Barnett, stepped onto the entertainment scene a little less than a decade ago as a backup dancer or video girl (we get the pleasure of hearing all about this in LP1) for artists such as Kylie Minogue and Taio Cruz. Twigs wouldn’t come to debut music until the end of 2012 with EP1, which was released through Bandcamp and followed up with a series of YouTube videos. Honestly, I —and not to her own discredit —didn’t take notice of her until she released a music video for “Water Me” on YouTube. “Water Me,” along with three other singles would come together to form EP2, which was a piece of art that defined the tone of my summer 2013.

I’m only slightly partial to this woman.

“Water Me” opens with a set of eerie synth voices alternatively echoing what seems to be “oh-oh.” And then in comes twigs’ ethereal and distant whisper of a voice, monotonously cooing, “He won’t make love to me now/ Not now, I’ve set the fee/ He said it’s too much in pounds/ I guess I’m stuck with me,” and then you’re just heartbroken.

This “I’m small and lonely because I love someone who does not deserve my love” theme seems to be what this persona of FKA is. LP1 opens with a similar theme. The first track, “Preface,” begins with what seems to be Tahliah clearing her voice, trying to find the right note to say, “I love another and thus I hate myself.” Accompanied by a chorus, they harmonize and swing, slowly, slowly to introduce break-beats and reverberating electronic voices that come together in a crescendo that says, “This is my debut album, and it is damn good.”

We move on. “Light’s On” is the second track on the LP, and here we’re suddenly veered into the other half of what love can look like: pure, uninhibited, animalistic lust. Twigs, in her signature seductive voice, taunts at us: “…we’ll make love until the morning/ let me tell you all my secrets and I’ll whisper till the day’s done.” We’ve moved on from “broken and confused lover” territory and have entered something new and raw and exciting.

“Two Weeks” follows and FKA is at her meanest, but it’s great. She’s beyond loving and lusting after this man/person/thing/whatever it is. She’s moved on and is berating this ex-lover for not holding on to her in the way that she finally realizes she deserved. “Pull out the incisor/ Give me two weeks/ You won’t recognize her." So it seems FKA has been betrayed, and she is out for blood. Surrounding these lyrics is an aggressive, repetitive, and reverberating synth string number that is underscored by the distant echo of soft drums.

“Two Weeks” also has this sort of cool music video where a giant FKA twigs is draped in gold and surrounded by smaller, meager humans who cower at her poised anger. Worth a watch.

The pinnacle of this album doesn’t come until “Pendulum.” We get a glimpse of twigs’ full vocal range, her mastery in production, and, here, the love story comes to a sort of completion. FKA loves this person; she’s been hurt by this person, but she also knows that she hasn’t been perfect in the relationship. Things are done, and FKA is broken but not shattered. She’s remembering the good and hoping for a brighter tomorrow. She’s the “…sweet little love maker” whose only want is that her lover should also remember the good.

Shuffle is an online music publication run by UChicago students. For more content go to shuffle.uchicago.com.

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