Review by Roy Trakin.
FKA twigs, LP1 (Young Turks)
The precocious, pixie-ish Gloucestershire U.K. native Talilah Barnett is a fractured soul provocateur, with the idiosyncratic audacity of M.I.A., the artful impudence of Bjork, the sexual bravado of Madonna and the bondage badinage of Grace Jones.
After two EPs released on the same XL Recordings imprint that produced indie critical faves The xx, SBTRKT and Sampha, twigs’ new album came out last year and landed on a slew of Top 10 lists, right up there with D’Angelo, Run the Jewels and The War on Drugs.
It’s a jagged, thorny effort – as befits her own dabbling in S&M – see her hanging by her hair in the just-released video for “Pendulum” – and her scary pose as a real-life porcelain china doll on the cover is not so much cute as unsettling. She’s got a high-pitched warbling voice that often touches on the melancholic languor of Lana Del Rey (they share producer Emile Haynie).
Start with “Two Weeks,” the single, which could well serve as the soundtrack to the upcoming film version 50 Shades of Grey: “I know it hurts,” she intones in clipped fashion over a shimmering drum machine and a wobbly beat. “Higher than a motherfucker, dreaming of you as my lover/Flying like a streamer thinking of new ways to do each other.” It’s less a come-on than an ominous threat, the eroticism mingling with abject fear of what’s in store.
Barnett hits some scary high notes in “Numbers,” wondering if she was just another sexual conquest, and promising severe consequences: “Tonight do you want to live or die?” She assumes a spooky, other-worldly chant for “Closer” bemoaning her “isolation” – buttressed by blips and a snapping bass-and-drum – that is frightening in its obsessiveness: “In my mind/Eternal darkness/Seemed like it was true.” In “Give Up,” she acts like a compliant partner, but the menace lurks just underneath “I’ll do anything to make it better babe/Do you like it like that?”
Twigs doesn’t need you nor anyone. “I just touch myself,” she sultrily coos in “Kicks.” “And say, I’ll make my own damn way.”
Self-sufficient, someone who needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle, Barnett’s a beckoning Venus fly trap, a siren luring men (and women) to their demise, a post-modern alien temptress who deconstructs pop and soul, and, like Scarlett Johansson in Under the Skin, sinking us in a vat of liquified body parts. Long may she reign.