- There's been a lot of hype surrounding LP1, the debut album from Tahliah Barnett, better known as FKA twigs. She's only released two EPs until now, but her rise to something approaching pop-stardom has been fierce and unstoppable. A seriously considered image has helped—Barnett has been on the covers of I-D, Dazed and The Fader already, and her music videos have more or less gone viral. But it's the music itself that really makes her stand out amongst her peers in contemporary R&B. Her second EP in particular, which was produced in part by Arca, showcased a stripped back, raw and futuristic vision of pop music.
If you heard Barnett's previous releases, you'll know more or less what to expect here. Stark, often detuned synthesizers swell in and out, and awkward bass grumbles complement sparse percussive rolls. Barnett started her career as a backing dancer for acts such as Jessie J, and it shows. The album utilizes tropes of various scenes—trap-like percussion, heavily chopped and manipulated vocals—to create something that is more akin to the music that might soundtrack a contemporary dance piece. Each beat is a potential accent to a bold and deliberate movement.
It's worth noting that while other producers had a hand in various tracks, Barnett produced much of the album, and reportedly nothing was written without her present. You can tell—this certainly isn't an album that's been ruined by committee. It feels like a singular vision. This is hardly surprising given the label behind it—intelligent but accessible pop music is fast becoming Young Turks' stock-in-trade.
Her production style sets Barnett apart, and her distinctive look means her face stands out on billboards, but her voice is no doubt the real star here. It almost seems odd for someone with such an absurdly strong image and such a considered presence to have such hauntingly fragile voice. Lyrically, the songs paint a picture of Barnett with a similar duality. Sometimes it seems she's hurt and insecure, seemingly defined by her relationships. At other times, such as on the lead single "Two Weeks," she's a more confident and determined character, a mile away from the anxious and apprehensive lover in "Lights On." Her delivery throughout the album never feels anything less than utterly sincere. Both haunting and charming, it really is one of the most emotive performances we've heard in quite some time.
When I first heard LP1, part of me was slightly disappointed. Given her two earlier EPs, it didn't seem unreasonable to expect the album to come from far out in left-field, like a transmission from a pop station in a distant future. LP1 is a little more straightforward than that. The pop influences are more audible, and the whole thing feels a little more familiar. But I realised after a few listens that this is hardly a bad thing. In the end, LP1 is probably the most singular pop album of the year. It's testament to how emotionally affecting one person's realised vision can be.
02. Lights On
03. Two Weeks
06. Video Girl
09. Give Up