FKA twigs is just chilling. On her newest mixtape Caprisongs, released Jan. 14, she proves she can still make excellent music without the elaborate musical production and the avant-garde conceptual framework of her previous album Magdalene. Playing with more traditional instrumentals and pop structures has not made FKA twigs compromise her artistry; on the contrary, it allows Caprisongs to become the most intimate, entertaining and touching project in her musical career.
It does not take a careful listen to realize that Caprisongs is a collaborative work, unlike her previous albums. Whereas her only collaborator on an album has been the Atlanta-rapper Future, she now has as many as nine featuring artists. Nevertheless, she manages to blend her style seamlessly with the diverse styles of her guests. The fascinating chemistry among them makes this mixtape full of fun and surprises.
On tracks such as “Honda” and “Papi Bones,” FKA twigs is effortlessly playful and sensual. By finding a comfortable balance between her sharper, often autotuned voice with the deeper, mumbling voices of her featuring artists, such as Pa Salieu and Shygirl, she brilliantly portrays the bantering, push-and-pull tension between lovers who are flirting and dancing with each other. In addition, she cleverly borrows elements from African and Latin American music, making her music catchier and easier to dance to. The sexy electricity portrayed in these songs thus becomes richer and more savory as well.
On other songs such as “Careless” and “Darjeeling,” she is more contemplative and embracing. Whereas “Careless” is obviously influenced by Daniel Caesar’s minimalist production and soulful style, FKA twigs dominates the song in terms of content. “You can be careless with me,” she sings without her signature autotunes, as she lets down her defenses and softens her edges perhaps for the very first time in her music.
On “Darjeeling,” she sings with Jorja Smith and Unknown T about self-healing and dreaming big, “You’re not alone/ I’ll wait till the end of time for you.” Whereas Magdalene is notable for its simplistic yet symbolic lyrics, “Darjeeling” has much more complex lyrics that detail the process of losing and regaining hope. Only on this record do listeners penetrate her ethereal artistic persona to see her genuine self, simply by listening and appreciating her beautiful voice and heartfelt lyrics.
In a way, FKA twigs’ collaborators are not limited to her various featured artists. Traditional acoustic instruments such as the piano, violin and even harp have made few appearances in her past works, but they show up much more frequently in this mixtape. “Lightbeamers,” for example, has an astonishing outro that balances acoustic instrumentals and electronic trap beats in an unexpectedly harmonic way. Another major shift from her previous music is the extensive use of monologues that add more profound storytelling to this mixtape, better engaging her audiences.
FKA twigs is not only more successful in her collaborations than her lazier counterparts (here’s to you, Ed Sheeran) but also smarter to leave some space for introspection. “Thank You Song” is a solo piano ballad that concludes this mixtape, a rather conservative choice for the vanguard FKA twigs. Yet, the song is distinguished by its unparalleled emotional honesty that exposes her internal world like peeling an onion. “I wanted to die, I’m just being honest,” she starts in a clean yet fragile voice. Eventually, however, she finds precious hope in “you,” who opens her heart and takes sincere care of her. Her frankness and courage in exposing and confronting her vulnerabilities are both impressive and inspiring.
On Caprisongs, FKA twigs has never sounded so natural, fun and interactive with her listeners. Despite working with a variety of different artists, the mixtape remains a cohesive, candid work about her experience and emotions. It is not a step backward into pop cliches but a vivid testimony that she could still impress listeners — even with her veil of artistic persona lifted.