In one of FKA twigs’ earliest music videos, a giant cartoon of the singer’s face sheds a tear and waters herself. “Water Me,” from her boundary-bursting 2013 EP, EP2, is a tight encapsulation of twigs’ earliest artistic iteration: creating symbolic, moving songs that largely portray the journey of healing from trauma as a self-dependent, isolated process. Nearly a decade later, twigs has released Caprisongs, out Friday, her first-ever mixtape that embodies a sound and philosophy that’s miles away from the music of her past. With almost no rollout and just one pre-album single, it marks a new dawn for the singer, and is one of her most buoyant, unfussy, and — perhaps most notably – playful projects yet.
It’s been a tough few years for twigs. She wrote Magdalene, her break-through 2019 record, after receiving laparoscopic surgery which saw six fibroid tumors, two the size of apples, three kiwis, a few strawberries, removed from her uterus — a fruit bowl of pain, she said. In 2021, it emerged that she’d been in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship with ex Shia LaBeouf. (She’s currently suing him for sexual battery, assault and infliction of emotional distress, per the NYT. LaBeouf, via his lawyer, has denied the allegations.) Now, filling in the blanks, Caprisongs shows us where twigs is going, and, most importantly, where she’s at in her healing process.
Across the project’s 17 tracks, twigs sounds free and light, unburdened by the carefully perfected high-octane concepts that have gilded each of her previous records. On LP1, the sound and visuals of her songs explored facets of being restrained; the foundation of Magdalene was built off the story of religious figure Mary Magdalene. On her latest, there’s still a sense of cohesion in the beats, sounds, and features selected for the record, but an air of letting go and looseness pervades its tracks. Perhaps it’s the reason why she’s chosen to label Caprisongs a mixtape — as if twigs has stepped out of her jewels and garb, let out a big exhale, and presented what she has without further decoration needed.
Sonically, the mixtape is her most mainstream-leaning work yet, full of trap beats, free-wheeling exploration into genres like reggae and afrobeats, and one caffeinated 2-minute interlude that she endearingly describes at its beginning as “elevator music but you’re going to the 50th floor.”
Most of its songs are celebratory. Opener “ride a dragon” is a dense, flowy banger full of effect-laden and fast-forwarded vocals, punctuated by twigs’ own giggles. The whiplash-like “Pamplemousse,” which clocks in at less than two minutes, is a flash of percussion and dizzying vocals singing about La Croix, and ends on a hilarious bit of audio from a fan begging her to release her Dua Lipa collaboration, “Why Don’t You Love Me.”
That’s another huge part of the Caprisongs: snippets of recorded dialogue from fans, friends, and herself scattered throughout its songs. It’s something twigs hasn’t done before in her catalog, and the effect gives the record a sense of fullness and multitude — of healing as a communal effort.
Caprisongs feels special because it feels like an album twigs made for herself first.
On “oh my love,” one of the records’ slower songs, a moving voice memo from a friend offering advice about boys closes out the track. “We’ve not got a long time here so love yourself, know your worth, and f*ck crying over these stupid boys that don’t even recognize the worth in themselves,” she says. “I wish you could see in you what I see in you, and what everyone sees in you.”
The numerous features on the album, from British rapper Pa Salieu, The Weeknd, Jorja Smith, shygirl, Nigerian breakout Rema, Daniel Caesar, Solo, and Unknown T, also add a chorus of voices to twigs’ community, notable because most of her past albums have been feature-less (Future was the only feature on Magdalene.)
Zoomed out, Caprisongs feels special because it feels like an album twigs made for herself first. They are the songs she needed to hear to revitalize herself, and the words she needed to internalize to reach a new level of personal understanding. As she herself echoed ahead of the album’s release: “[Caprisongs] is a journey back to myself through my amazing collaborators and friends.” On the album closer, “thank you song,” she sings directly to those people and delivers perhaps the most emotional song on the record, a radiant, shimmering ballad that climaxes with the lyrics: “Thank you, thank you, I’m okay/ ‘Cause you care I made it through today.”
Truthfully, Caprisongs does feel superfluous at moments, and its songs, though catchy and dance-y, largely fail to capture that incisive vision that made previous songs like “Cellophane” so game-changing. But after running through its tracklist several times, that observation feels unimportant and, ultimately, missing the larger point of the record.
At the beginning of early album cut “meta angel,” twigs vulnerably remarks to a group of friends, “I wanna be more confident, I really do.” She says it so earnestly that everyone immediately bursts out laughing. But by the end of the 45-minute runtime, one can’t help but feel Caprisongs is her honest attempt of doing just that — a moment for twigs to revel in new possibilities and, in turn, personhood.