Review Summary: To my mind it's so sweet/And I wish you could see it
Last year, when I reviewed FKA twigs' debut LP ("LP1"), I noted that her music struck an innovative balance between near-violent narratives of relational problems and ear-turning production. "EP2" alluded to her ability to write truly heart-breaking and engaging songs. Now, with "M3LL155X," twigs has finally perfected her formula. She's refined her message, codified her production, and brought her own voice--both literally and figuratively--to the front.
One of the main things of note concerning this EP is just how in-control and dominant twigs sounds on this release. Prior releases, especially "EP2," emphasized her fragility, placing more focus on twigs as a sexual figure than as a strong and self-actualized woman. Some of the lyrics on songs like "Papi Pacify" and "How's That" were self-effacing to a fault, placing masculine gratification and pleasure at the center of a web of abuse. "LP1" widened the scale of this message, showing the full-scope of twigs' tumult. Songs like "Pendulum" and "Numbers" gave credence to just how hard she tried to make it all work while songs like "Two Weeks," while on the surface showcasing a new and bold twigs, were littered with cues and references to just how much of a fallacy the whole thing was, with twigs still ultimately pleading for love and attention in the end.
"M3LL155X" skirts this dynamic almost entirely. On songs like "in time" and "Glass & Patron," twigs is the aggressor, singing forceful lines like "you've got a goddamn nerve" and "in time/you'll be doin' me right." This new forcefulness, this new assertion of dominance, fares extraordinarily well for twigs, as the songwriting is the true show of evolution here. While some of the lines on "LP1" were clunky and unnecessarily dour and pleading, this new EP really shows her deft new hand at penning lyrics. The themes of the EP concern feminine energy and independence, and the way that they're dealt with can only be described as masterful. Twigs never falls on flat platitudes or cliches when addressing certain aspects of her identity or the relationships she has. She never throws out bold pseudo-feminist proclamations of like some of her contemporaries do in an attempt to play up her progressive ideals. She shows rather than tells, and does so almost as well as the masters (the Fiona Apple
s and Bjork
s of the world). Part of this may be thanks to Boots, Beyonce
's songwriter of choice for her latest effort, but the sonic and lyrical cohesion here can only be attributed to twigs herself.
And the sonics here are quite impressive. Never before have twigs' drums hit as hard or the synths cut as deep as on this EP. "Mothercreep" lurches into focus with a pulse-like bassline and synths that could out-drone Tim Hecker. The drums skitter and punch with an urgency that calls to mind both UK grime and bass music as well as current Southern US trap and "Stankonia" era hip-hop. "in time" mixes one of twigs' most sensual melodies with some of her harshest and most menacing drum production, while "Glass & Patron" stands as one of her most unpredictable and experimental tracks. EP opener "Figure 8" and "I'm Your Doll" mix sexuality and horror in a way that make The Weeknd
's horror-indebted "Kiss Land" sound like a Taylor Swift b-side.
Looking at all of this, it's safe to say that M3LL155X stands as the most complete and compelling representation of twigs' talent, as well as the continual emotive potential of avant-garde electronica, to be released this year. She's effectively channeled her essence into something essential, something that should be recognized by all as at least pivotal in the development of this continued intersection of singer-songwriters and electronic producers. If you're still trumpeting the "post-dubstep" label that popped up in 2011, it's safe to say that M3LL155X stands as perhaps the most pivotal release to mark that subgenre in the last couple of years.
For lovers of hip-hop and electronic music, 2015 has been an almost unbearably good year. While others have chosen to mine the past to pull together their magnus opuses, twigs' does something that no one else in 2015 has done: make music distinctly futuristic, both in ideology and in sound.