REVIEW: FKA twigs Magdalene



Since the early 2010’s, the artist known as FKA twigs has been stretching the limits of pop and R&B through a bizarre production style that is entirely unique to her, making her one of the most interesting and consistent figures in music at the moment. Her 2014 debut, titled LP 1, is a mind-bending album of glitchy, weird and warped R&B, but she really came into her own on 2015’s dark and harrowing M3LL155X EP. And then she went dark for four years, sparking endless online speculation about the reasons for her silence. In the spring of 2018, the mystery was solved when she posted an essay on Instagram explaining that she had six fibroid tumors surgically removed the previous winter and was in the process of recovery. Last month, she released Magdalene, her most confident and theatrical release to date. On “thousand eyes,” the album’s cinematic opener, choir-like vocals and an intense build-up leads to a moment of transcendent beauty, as twig’s voice cuts rapidly in and out to disorienting effect over sparkling piano keys. The excellent single “cellophane” (all the song titles on Magdalene are lowercase for reasons unexplained) is an unexpected left turn from the experimental future-pop we’ve come to expect from FKA twigs. Instead of her characteristic glitches and electronic textures, the song was stripped back, and although the track was accompanied by somber piano and strange, alien sound effects, the focus is on her voice and the production only served to pull you deeper into the trance. The whole album is full of completely disarming moments like these: the stunning woodwinds that appear at the end of ‘home with you’, the Kate Bush-ian vocal performance on ‘sad day’ and the dramatic build-up of ‘fallen alien’ that leads to the most intense moment on the record in its chorus. When the record falters, it’s mostly in low-impact moments that don’t really land, like her duetting with an annoyingly auto-tuned Future on “holy terrain” or the pretty but inconsequential ‘daybed’. Still, the three song stretch starting with the phenomenal ‘mary magdalene’ and ending with the beautiful ‘mirrored heart’ is probably perfect and it holds the most power FKA twig’s music has ever held, more than making up for the missteps it took to get to it. — CHARLIE COLAN