One of the most anticipated sophomore album releases of the decade is finally upon us! Released over half a decade ago, Tahliah Debrett Barnett’s debut FKA twigs album LP1 was one of the most thrillingly original and forward-thinking pop releases in years, its shifting rhythms and immersive soundscapes informing a great deal of subsequent music. The intervening years have seen Barnett suffer physical and emotional upheaval, something that’s informed the sound and themes of Magdalene. Features production from Nicolas Jaar.
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Breakups knock us all for six. But a breakup combined with an illness that culminates in you needing surgery? And in the immediate aftermath of the end of a long-term relationship? That’s some shit. In the light of these personal traumas, the fact that FKA twigs has made a new LP at all is a triumph. The fact that this record is also the intense, torrid, gorgeous ‘Magdalene’ is all the more impressive.
On her 2014 debut album ‘LP1’, twigs (real name Tahliah Barnett) presented a distinctive take on contemporaneous trends in electronic pop, but on ‘Magdalene’ she really nails down her sonic aesthetic. This is modern art-pop that brings the spirit of the lineage’s finest - Kate Bush, Japan, Bjork - into 2019. Barnett’s pains require a form of expression at once intimate and widescreen, and traditional genre boundaries are melted down in order to accommodate this. It’s how we end up with the Future feature on artful trap cut ‘holy terrain’, the morphine-hazed despair of ‘sad day’, and the multi-movement, post-Yeezus, scorched earth masterpiece ‘Fallen Alien’.
twigs works through her pain in ways that enliven her music still further. On cuts like ‘cellophane’ and ‘home for you’ she delivers some heart-wrecking vocal performances that are made all the more grand for their daringly spare instrumentals. Indeed, perhaps the boldest development between ‘LP1’ and ‘Magdalene’ is how quiet some of this record is - these moments where the beats drop out and twigs is left alone with her emotions provide her discography with some of its highest points.
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