THE FIRST THING THAT MIGHT BE SAID about Caprisongs is that FKA twigs – English producer, writer and dancer Tahlia Barnett – has made an album that should, if there’s any fairness or sense in the music business (yeah, I know), land her in the middle of the mainstream.
Having made several records which didn’t so much hover on the edge of the regular music world as dance past it with insouciance, knowing that attuned ears would know what they were hearing – a concept album around Mary Magdalene, with or without the angular electronic structures, does not scream out chart challenger – this is a 48 minute “come check me out” letter.
Caprisongs is 15 easily recognisable as R&B songs (with two interludes) casually throwing on pop garb; leaning into grooves that slide more than beat; casting its net widely from East Coast bars and Caribbean clubs to double-sized European rooms where Gazprom executives and their tattooed bodyguards rub shiny suits against bored flesh.
It is not without peculiarities. Pampleousse may have the skittish run of a Charli XCX track but in its 98 seconds it still feels like it bends against the wind; Honda balances an attractive vocal hook with an off-centre bassline, a slice of grime casualness with a darkly cooing backing vocal response; and Careless burrows under the lovers pop of vocalist Daniel Caesar with a nagging counter that swings from distortion to church pew.
However, the insinuating rhythm and sweet melody of Minds Of Men (even with pop-operatic vocalising), and the slow uncurling of Meta Angel, the warm slink and building chorus of Tears In The Club (with The Weeknd’s signature I’m-hurt-hurt-me-again crooning), and the bruised, Eurythmics-like floating Darjeeling (Unknown T interjecting, the sample of You’re Not Alone soothing) make her intentions clear. And, successful.
As you get to know the album better, the second thing that might be said about Caprisongs is that it is not just body-positive and sex-positive, but recovery-positive. Having written online last year about the realities of controlling behaviour, and subtle and not so subtle emotional undermining, by a partner (a well-known actor with form in this area who you can look up if you need to), made worse by the enforced confinement of lockdown, Barnett makes it clear that she isn’t just free of that situation but not held down by its after-effects.
If the album doesn’t tickle the back of the brain in the same way LP1 or Magdalene did, the tone of Caprisongs, lyrically and musically, is clearly on the upside, the songs are comfortably on the welcoming side, and the result should quite reasonably be on the winning side.