Photo: Courtesy of XL Recordings.
To some, the art of the bedroom album is a lost one. After all, there's reason to believe LPs that ignite the libido have been swept under the rug by top 40 one-off tracks about one-night stands and NSA (no strings attached) sex.
But, I would argue that that's not the case. As we've seen with EDM, the build-drop formula has progressed (perhaps regressed?) to deliver more dynamic, disco-infused beats that get people going without inducing a dubstep migraine.
As a result, R&B has begun to reel it in, too, experimenting with sounds that challenge its roots. The British musician Tahliah Barnett — better known as FKA twigs — is a latecomer to this woozy offshoot of R&B, but her take is accessible enough to bridge the gap between the underground and the mainstream; one that her contemporaries have been teetering on since The Weeknd arrived in 2012.
FKA twigs' rumbling began right as The Weeknd began blowing up across the blogosphere. Her wonderfully enigmatic EPs (generically titled EP1 and EP2) summoned a sexually charged persona whose fragile confidence was simultaneously sensitive and intimidating. Here was a young woman so in control of herself that her submissiveness with her lovers became a means of controlling them. Still, EP1 and EP2 held focus on her subjects.
LP1 makes it about her. It's FKA twigs' genesis album, and Barnett kicks it off by construing her voice to mimic that of a church choir, repeating "I love another, and thus I hate myself" until it dizzies out into the next song, "Lights Out." From there, she hones her sexuality over tracks about "doing it with the lights on," once she trusts her partner. Because, after all, her "thighs are apart" and her partner should "breathe in." All the while, knocking snares, spinning synths, and unpredictable bumps of bass combine to create a 40-minute slow-burn soundtrack to whatever goes on behind closed doors.
This is an album to have sex to. There's no question about it. FKA twigs' music ebbs, flows, and swells like an intimate fantasy. LP1 is an aural body high: It's a triumphant piece of work that's as delicate as it is rough. Beyond what Barnett promised with her EPs, it leaves you hovering somewhere between immediate postcoital bliss and the harsh reality that the comedown is nigh.
But, man does the afterglow leave you crawling back for more.