Two critical hit albums and near-universal praise should show that FKA Twigs does not play around. Her new mixtape “CAPRISONGS,” released last week on Jan. 14, 2022, is no less than good, a formidable addition to the avant-pop artists’ stellar discography that tries to break into the mainstream.
Life hasn’t been easy for Twigs. The avant-pop artist has faced multiple traumatic events such as a physically abusive relationship, the racist public backlash from her former fiance’s fans and a longtime battle with fibroid tumors. Her work has viscerally reflected on these hardships, with Twigs pairing operatic wails about heartbreak and trauma against experimental visuals and sonic backgrounds.
“CAPRISONGS” is a bit different. Twigs is still brutally raw, so much so that some critics are calling this album more personal than the emotionally wrecking “MAGDALENE,” but instead of the high fantasy aesthetic veil we’re used to, “CAPRISONGS” deploys its honesty through largely relatable imagery.
I’m going to make two things clear before continuing. First, Twigs deliberately calls this a mixtape and not a continuation of her usual avant-pop album discography — more on that later. Second, Twigs wrote that “CAPRISONGS” is “Bronzer in the sink, alco pop on the side … a club pre game, your bestie who is always late but brings the most to the party, meeting a friend at the airport, just togetherness.” In other (much shorter) words, it’s supposed to be a fun little appetizer, a short pick-me-up from the drabness of life to kick off the party.
“CAPRISONGS” is not trying to be the next peak of artistic expression. For this reason, I’m going to try my best to avoid comparing this mixtape to albums such as “MAGDALENE” or “LP1.” Instead I’ll be reviewing “CAPRISONGS” on its merits as a mixtape and as a side project in Twigs’ discography.
“tears in the club,” the mixtape’s lead single, is perhaps most emblematic of Twigs’ new direction. It’s an uptempo dancehall R&B track about the sudden flood of grief that comes after a failed relationship, with The Weeknd serving as the feature and the allegorical former partner. It’s also co-produced by electronic music giant Arca, and that should be more than enough to entice you to give it a try.
This isn’t to say “CAPRISONGS” lacks the usual quicks of FKA Twigs’ albums. Opener “ride the dragon” features Twigs’ usual siren chants at its outro, “papi bones” has her collaborating with hyperpop rapper Shygirl over an elastic Afrobeat reggae and “pamplemousse” distorts her voice so much it’s reminiscent of her collaboration with (my favorite artist) Nicolas Jaar. It’s definitely Twigs at her most accessible, but “CAPRISONGS” definitely has its moments.
Twigs is the most outstanding performer out here. She absolutely bodies The Weeknd in “tears in the club” and runs laps around Daniel Caesar in “careless” — although to be fair, most people tend to be more talented than Caesar. If anything, Twigs is such a standout part of this album that in the few moments the features give her a run for her money (namely, Shygirl in “papi bones” and both Jorja Smith and Unknown T in “darjeeling”) you’re almost shocked.
Both new and old Twiglets should be able to find something to enjoy in this mixtape, and while that’s usually a high compliment, in “CAPRISONGS” it’s also its downfall. “CAPRISONGS” is not eccentric enough to leave a lasting impression on its newcomers, and it’s also not deconstructed enough to surprise Twigs’ core base. There are not enough operatic moments, not enough emotional high drama.
I return to the format of Twigs’ latest release. Historically, mixtapes have allowed people to compile their favorite songs together — they’re the precursor to the modern playlist, one could say — and they create a platform for multiple artists to come together and share what they consider their best standalone work. And “CAPRISONGS” seems to fit the bill, from its extensive number of producers and songwriters to the “click” of a portable cassette at the beginning of almost every track.
It’s also undoubtedly Twigs to a fault. We as an audience know what Twigs is capable of, and while “CAPRISONGS” is definitely an above average album it’s by no means the usual masterpiece. I don’t want to see “Twigs” flex her musical muscles; I want to see Twigs gracefully redefine contemporary music with the delicacy of an angel pole dancing to the bottom of Hell.
But that’s the appeal of “CAPRISONGS.” There’s a charm in the pseudo-philosophical, self care dialogue recordings in the album’s interludes. Twigs is no longer an alien nor the holy mother. She’s Tahliah Barnett, who goes to the club, hangs around in athleisure and gets way too into astrology and tarot readings with her cool friends. After two tight inhales with “LP1” and “MAGDALENE,” Twigs finally gets to exhale and relax.
And who knows. Maybe her next album will leave us breathless.