Photo by Tim Snow

FKA twigs: M3LL155X (take 2)

With M3LL155X FKA twigs cements her status as the most experimental pop musician within the last few years.
FKA twigs
XL Recordings

LP1 was terrific. It was majestic. It was spellbinding. It was truly androgynous. It may have been too outlandish and inaccessible for some, but that is what made FKA twigs debut album so enchanting. It didn’t feel conventional; yet the album was more attractive because it was abnormal. Almost a year since releasing that album, twigs has decided to release an EP entitled M3LL155X (pronounced “Mellissa”). The world would have been just fine without this collection of songs; nobody has managed to present a body of work as individual or as genre bending as her debut. However, it didn’t stop her from dropping this EP with minimal warning. Just a couple of videos and a radio debut of “Figure 8” was all the preparation that the world received for this release.

To be honest, it’s a brilliant idea that she didn’t give us everything at once because the wait for this EP is well worth the wait. The only piece of criticism I have is that M3LL155X wasn’t a full-length album. FKA twigs has somehow managed to push her boundaries sonically and effortlessly create five tracks without a single track feeling like filler. The opening track, “Figure 8”, really gives us insight into her life post-LP1. “Let me live / Through your vice / Mass appeal / I feel in ten breaths it’s a miracle if we’re still alive” are the first few lines that you hear among a wobbling, pulsating bass and a scattering group of claps. Throughout the song, FKA doesn’t just say that being a celebrity is hard; she communicates her frustration with her envious heart (“I’m just jealous cause you’re more alive than what I’ll ever be”) as well as her desire to be normal like everyone else (“Teach me how to live life like I’m not a singer”). And all of this is done whilst being surrounded by lingering synths, pitched vocals and an extremely simple yet catchy refrain (“Hush now, hush now”). The four tracks that follow only help to expand on the ethereal sound that “Figure 8” creates. “I’m Your Doll” feels like the passionate plea FKA twigs was born to deliver. “Stop playing with those other girls / You know it drives me crazy” are the words FKA sings with breaths to spare over a woozy synth which builds into an anthem by the end, with live instrumentation and distorted guitar note hits.

If there was ever a song that could cross over into mainstream radio for FKA twigs, “In Time” would be her golden ticket. With trap influences, especially on the hi hats, as well as a melody that sounds like something snatched from a Van She recording, FKA twigs sound like she’s in her element as well as producing a top – notch, radio-ready song. Plus, it only helps her case because she decides to talk about relationships without mentioning sex once. “In Time / You’ll learn to say sorry / And I will play tender with you” she sings, with the right amount of poise and grace, then launching into full attack mode (“You be picking a fight / You’ve got a goddamn nerve / You be testing my sane”). Without sounding corny, FKA addresses the truth behind a love/hate relationship, the twists and turns, highs and lows and how she’s willing to commit if her significant other is. The slightly annoying auto-tune chorus aside, this track is solid in helping FKA explore subjects other than love making.

“Glass and Patron” pops up next, and just in time for FKA twigs to flex her up-tempo muscles. The track begins with just twigs, a bell and a towering synth. But this isn’t just an ordinary dance song. Rather than attempt to give another take on a four-on-the-floor EDM track, it feels like an experimental remix with its production cues taken from an early ‘90s pop hit, such as “Vogue” by Madonna or “Finally” by CeCe Peniston. And although the catchy chant is the star of the show lyrically (“1 / 2 / 3 / Now hold that pose for me”) the song lyrics explore self-expression and embracing your sexuality without sounding overtly sexual. The closer, “Mothercreep” reminded me instantly of Jessy Lanza or Banks from beginning to end, but FKA twigs leaves her own mark on this song. With a beat that fells inspired by Garage and UK Funky, as well as a throbbing bassline, coupled with enough sound effects to last a lifetime and a haunting set of backing vocals, FKA twigs has never sounded so assured. The Madonna influence is even stronger this song, but that isn’t overshadowed by strong vocals and a sharp ending that involves someone crying out for help and a sustained organ.

Usually, whenever anyone follows up a stellar debut album, there is always a fear that they cannot replicate the formula that worked the last time to the same effect. However, that doesn’t hold true for FKA twigs. She doesn’t seem to know what conventional means, and that is a good thing. By expanding her song topics, her song writing has become even more diverse and much tighter. The vocals still send chills down the spine and everything becomes more grand and obtuse with every song. FKA twigs is striking, stunning weird and if her debut album assured that, this follow-up only strengthened her case. Hopefully nothing changes that.

RATING 9 / 10