Album of the Week: FKA Twigs – Magdalene

Everything that FKA Twigs has accomplished through her career has been groundbreaking for a pop artist, and that goes for her latest LP too “Magdalene.” Her sophomore album, which comes after a five year hiatus from her stunning debut, “LP1;” the theatre tour which preceded it; and the fact every song on the record is a ballad, are all things that are completely discordant with common practises in popular music. The impish British artist has never been one to conform, and ever since we first heard the Arca-produced “Water” and saw the Jesse Kanda video that accompanied it, it was clear that this young artist will be bringing something unique to that sphere of music, crossing over into the mainstream from left field electronica. Working with experimental musical artists like Arca,  and exploiting the full range of her voice in a R&B dialect, FKA Twigs hit upon a sound that none before and since, have been able to execute to the same captivating effect.

After the combined success of “EP2” and “LP1” most other artists would have immediately followed it up to capitalise on the success, and this says a lot of FKA Twigs character and artistry, waiting five years to release the long-anticipated “Magdalene.” For production she turned to the equally avant garde, Nicholas Jaar and where this album diverges from the rest of her discography is that the music takes a more reserved approach, compared to the bold electronica of previous records, and it works in tandem with exposing and emphasising FKA Twigs’ voice on this record. Going from the quivering falsetto of  “cellophane” to the gnarling rebel yell of “fallen alien,” FKA Twigs’ voice undulates between vulnerable and confronting exposing lyrics that encroach on common themes of love and heartbreak from a 21st century feminists’ perspective.

“The record is about every lover that I’ve ever had, and every lover that I’m going to have,” she told ID  magazine, but it’s done in a manner that sees her question “how, as a woman, your story is often attached to the narrative of a man?” Headlining this theme is the central figure of Mary Magdalene, the archetype for any woman whose story was attached to the narrative of a man. “Yes, I heard you needed me,” sings FKA Twigs in an entrancing whisper on the title track, drawing you into the the enveloping sonorities of the track.

There’s an inescapable intimacy on this record as FKA Twigs wears a heart on her sleeve throughout the 9 songs on the album. It’s not necessarily a personal intimacy with the artist, but one that comes from an inherent understanding with the protagonists in the songs. FKA Twigs has never been an artist to share anything of her personal life through her music, and she continues to do this on Magdalene, but the combination of the production and the way her voice dominates each song makes this the most fully realised piece of work that she as an artist has produced. The gentility of the songs, the theme that runs through it and the way it comes together is yet another impressive landmark in her unprecedented musical career.