FKA twigs channels heartbreak, alienation on new record

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Five years after the release of her critically acclaimed debut album "LP1," English singer, songwriter and dancer FKA twigs has abandoned her cold and cryptic aesthetics in favor of something more sincere and emotionally tender. 

Unlike her previous projects, which feel like FKA twigs puts on an outward performance, "MAGDALENE" is more intimate and openly reveals her feelings of vulnerability. 

Most notably, her highly publicized relationship with actor Robert Pattinson ended. She identified this breakup as directly influencing her new music.

Vulnerability is most seen in the album’s lyricism, which heavily portrays themes of an emotionally devastating breakup and the despair that comes with it. This time around, instead of having her voice be a single element of her music, it’s the clear center of it. The instrumentals simply accompany her voice and provide an eerie and everflowing backdrop.

With the help of a new batch of producers, including Nicolas Jaar, Daniel Lopatin of Oneohtrix Point Never and Skrillex, "MAGDALENE" properly serves as a progression from FKA twigs’s previous work. Her last project was in 2015, the glitchy and nocturnal "M3LL155X EP," and the four years in between have left an imprint on FKA twigs’s artistic impression. 

"MAGDALENE" seems to take inspiration from other dense, surrealist works, such as those from groundbreaking artists like Kate Bush and Björk. Pushing pop’s boundaries and conventions with experimental intentions isn’t something that FKA twigs is new to, but her approach has completely changed. 

Instead of favoring the complex and challenging, on "MAGDALENE" FKA twigs is at her most accessible and inviting.

The album begins with “thousand eyes," a minimalist vocal track that features airy vocals over oscillating synths that build up and descend in waves. The song portrays FKA twigs’s growth in awareness to the circumstances of her breakup. His departure from their relationship reveals his lack of interest: “If you don’t pull me back, it wakes a thousand eyes."

The intense track “home with you” is about struggling to help others in a time of personal crisis. FKA twigs’s towering vocals bleed into raw distortion. The track’s melancholy piano and subtle drum programming work organically. The song’s end crescendos into an orchestral climax, a change in pace for the artist who typically favors wonky and mechanical instrumentation.

The delicate pianos and creeping drums continue to dominate in the album’s next track, “sad day,” a concise, progressive pop song. The track continues the themes of picking up the pieces after a breakup. 

“Holy terrain” is the album’s trendy radio single. FKA twigs sings over a moody trap beat, with Atlanta superstar Future mumble-crooning at the track’s end. While the release of the track as the album’s main single in September may have led many to believe FKA twigs was going to make a trap album, the song is really her only venture into the genre. 

It's a refreshing change of pace in the album’s flow, serving as a memorable and unique moment that stands out but also fits perfectly in, like a jigsaw puzzle piece.

“Mary magdalene” is another ever-evolving track, beginning with a spiritual sonic vignette, which develops into a sticky chorus and an explosive track. In the song, FKA twigs explores the religious figure as a female symbol. The song “fallen alien” works as the album’s climax in overall tension, containing a dense and convoluted instrumental with a suspenseful pitch-altered choir.

“Mirrored heart” and “daybed” begin the album’s descent into a sense of peace, away from the catharsis of the pulsating drums of the previous tracks. The former song is a truthful experience that speaks of how those you choose to love mirror your own intentions, motives and person. The latter is an affectionate song about accepting all of life’s events, for the sake of moving forward and better mental status.

The album’s final track, “cellophane,” works poignantly as its closer, wrapping up the concept of "MAGDALENE": Relationships are a test of self-preservation and self-worth. When we split apart from and end relationships is when we naturally and instinctively choose to evaluate ourselves, our motives, where we are coming from and where we are heading next.