Magdalene, the 2019 album by British-pop polymath FKA Twigs, was as exquisite as it was excruciating, nearly every song writhing with the anguish she experienced after a shattering period of heartache, loneliness, and health challenges. Shortly before making the album, she had several fibroids removed from her uterus — small tumors she described as “a fruit bowl of pain” lodged in her abdomen — and went through two intensely public breakups: In 2020, she filed a lawsuit detailing the emotional, physical, and mental abuse she’d suffered when she was with a famous Hollywood actor. Her traumas were splayed out for the world to see, and Twigs confronted such heavy turmoil by shaping Magdalene into a project so visceral and sacrosanct that it felt like bloodletting.
The rawness of her previous work is part of what makes the unbridled avant pop on her new mixtape, Caprisongs, such an epic thrill. Twigs is still excising some pain, but she’s uninhibited and out of fucks to give, choosing instead to center herself, her friends, and her joy as she finds release in sounds pulled from cavernous clubs and euphoric dance floors from London to Jamaica. Throughout her career, Twigs has morphed R&B wisps and electronic abstractions into highly visual concept art, and although the music on Caprisongs is her most buoyant, she doesn’t sacrifice her creative nonconformity or intimacy. She strikes a careful balance, akin to perfecting an arabesque on a razor blade, as she revels in production that’s carefree, cathartic, and completely life-giving. “It’s bronzer in the sink, alco pop on the side,” she wrote in a Twitter post announcing the project. “Friends in the park, your favourite person, that one sentence somebody said to you that changed everything.”
Twigs’ artistry is deeply physical, tied to her athleticism as a performer, so it’s not really a shock that her impulse is to sweat away any badness still lingering in her bones. “Wanna dance you out of my, gotta dance you out of my hips, my thighs, my wrongs, my rights,” she sings on “Tears in the Club,” where she’s joined by fellow pop eccentric the Weeknd. She dives into the dark dubiness of “Honda,” and gathers her girls for “Pamplemousse,” a swatch of chemical hyperpop indebted to Charli XCX and Sophie. Subtle homages to Jamaican dancehall and Afrobeats appear in the slow-wine of “Jealousy,” with Nigerian singer Rema, and “Papi Bones,” boosted by the subversive shapeshifter Shygirl. A voice toward the end of the song marvels, “She lets herself be free and so expressive and don’t give a fuck.”
Twigs edges just to the brink of the mainstream but leaps back into experimentalism before getting too close to ordinariness. She produced the mixtape alongside a few of the industry’s most freethinking heretics, including Arca and El Guincho, and ends up with a prismatic collection of tracks that reinforce her bona fides as more pop auteur than pop star. “Careless,” with Daniel Caesar, could have been a standard R&B duet if Twigs didn’t push her falsetto to the max to mix up the melody and the song’s provocations. Even as the 17-song project starts to drift in the latter half, Twigs makes meandering part of the exploratory process that still turns up refreshing streaks of freedom and inventiveness.
Caprisongs is structured like a real mixtape, complete with the clicks of a “record” button at the beginning of each song. Audio snippets from Twigs and her friends imbue the project with a closeness and a sense of vulnerability that lingers even when she’s losing herself on the dance floor. “I want to be more confident, I really do,” she admits before “Meta Angel” bursts into little micro-choirs, made up of her layered vocals, that reflect the constant chatter she hears in her head. She offers up what’s helped her: Positive affirmations and pep talks from people close to her, are shared and distributed to anyone listening. “Fuck crying over stupid boys who don’t even recognize the worth in themselves,” someone instructs toward the end of “Oh My Love.” Twigs follows each piece of advice to ecstatic ends. Considering the dark, daunting times we’re all living through, when our worlds can feel smaller and more stifled, seeing her break loose is all the more inspiring.