FKA twigs (born Tahliah Debrett) is a UK-based singer, dancer, producer, and director who may just be the most innovative name in alternative R&B today. Heavily influenced by producer Arca, who worked with twigs on songs for her releases EP2 and LP1, twigs’ music is haunting, beautiful, and at times disorienting. Her latest release, M3LL155X, shows that twigs continues to evolve — both lyrically and in her production style.
M3LL155X is somewhat of a departure from LP1, with twigs taking a less minimalistic approach to her songwriting, while still employing her signature half-whispered vocals and sexual subject matter. Taken as a whole, the EP reads like an autobiography of FKA twigs’ struggle to please both the record executives and her own artistic aspirations. Much of the EP tackles the artist’s dilemma of being pushed to make commercially viable music at the cost of her unique voice. The EP’s instrumentation and production mirror the frustration of the songs’ lyrics, incorporating heavier, more distorted sounds than were present in past releases.
While not every song quite hits its mark, M3LL155X is a promising new sonic direction for twigs. The opening song, “Figure 8,” gives a taste of what’s to come on the EP while still keeping some of the style and production of LP1. The verses and melodies on this track are nothing new to fans of twigs’ full-length release, but the production takes on a darker feel than much of her previous work. The instrumentation goes from slightly distorted to, at times, full-out fuzz. Heavy vocal effects in the outro, as well as the song’s abrupt ending give a slightly disorienting feel to the track.
Without a doubt, the standout track on this EP is “In Time.” In it, twigs’ signature style is juxtaposed by strained, almost spoken word lyrical deliveries in the chorus and bridge, along with more experimental vocal effects. The instrumentals on this track have a distinctly trap-influenced feel and incorporate more complex structure than previous works. The opposing styles in this track somehow come together in a way that makes it more than just the sum of its parts. If you’re on the fence about whether or not to give FKA twigs a shot, try this song first. Chances are, you’ll be hooked.
“Glass & Patron” is a hard song for me. The music video, released months ago, was a somewhat bawdy distraction from the actual content of the song. This track is by far the most experimental cut on the EP, incorporating yet more trap-flavored drums along with vocal effects that at times seem to be more of a gimmick than a song-writing tool. The lyrics, on the other hand, are some of the most well-developed and beautiful on the EP. What I can’t quite get over, however, is the whispered hook that not-so-subtly harkens back to Madonna’s “Vogue.” I really want to love this track. It has some of my favorite lyrics and instrumentals of the EP, but the hook and gimmicky effects make it difficult to get into.
The EP’s closer, “Mothercreep,” feels almost like FKA twigs’ take on a Purity Ring song. Swelling synth pads, distorted vocal samples, and reverb-drenched drums underlie sweet, crooning vocal melodies. In fact, this song has some of the most beautiful vocals on the album, proving that twigs is nothing if not a fantastic singer. However, the song feels just a little half-baked—as if there’s some direction that it heads towards but never quite reaches.
Despite my reservations about some of the tracks on this EP, it might be FKA twigs’ strongest release to date. While not as well-developed or polished as LP1 (one of my favorite albums of 2014), this EP takes a vastly more unique direction. Some of the risks twigs takes on this release may not have paid off, but the sound and feel of the EP are enough to make me keep coming back to it. If you haven’t yet given M3LL155X a listen, get on it—this is one release you have to hear for yourself.
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