(image taken from Pitchfork)

Dear Deliverance,

Caprisongs, the 2022 album by FKA Twigs, brands itself as a “mixtape”. I should explain, for people with romantically untroubled adolescences: A mixtape is a collection of songs recorded usually on cassette tape. Traditionally, the mixtape is arranged by one listener of music for another; it is an act of communication. (A stereotypical phrase describing this: “Hey, I made you a mixtape!” ) Of course, the analog format of the mixtape has been upgraded from cassette to CD to digital and to virtually infinite ways of sending it through your cellphone, e.g. as a list you made on Spotify. And yet, gifting an analog mixtape is probably a gesture that will survive notionally through the ages.

The term ‘mixtape’ today implies a lack of cohesion in content; it’s the opposite of a “concept album” which is thematically focused on a particular idea.[1] Twigs’ Caprisongs benignly deceives us into thinking that it’s a ‘mixtape’, while in truth it is very much a concept album: It’s a collection of inspirational letters to herself which she allows us to listen in on. At the same time, she leaves the object open to interpretation; maybe her vague ‘you’ is referring to the femininity is us, i.e. the listeners, and not herself. (If the listener dislikes their feminine side they’re probably wasting their time here.)

A mixtape is a diachronically powerful move in flirting. It is evidence that you’ve devoted time and effort just so that this other person (who currently seems magical) will have a brilliant listening experience. And at the same time, as your musical choices are ‘keeping them company’ like radio produces like to call it, your one stone kills a second bird: you get the chance to insert secret messages in your track choices; inside jokes, heartfelt lyrics that might or might not be directed at the listener of your mixtape, and other codes that you wish your receiver will care enough to try to decipher. Flirtatious easter eggs. (And like the incisive Chris Krauss has written, “isn’t every letter a love letter?”) Whoever resorts to music for communication has something or other which they’re unable to express by way of words; like the ineffability of attraction. I believe flirting is one important parallel between Caprisongs and the concept of the mixtape: it is often flirtatious—even though not necessarily erotic.

In the album’s first seconds (song title: ‘ride the dragon’), we can hear a cassette clicking into play, and then some underwater synth piano behind low-pitched vocals, and then: Twig’s voice, with inviting and ethereal production, enters the mix to tell the listener in unambiguous terms,

“Hey, I made you a mixtape…”

Twigs essentially highlights the fact that she has arranged these songs for the benefit of the listener. This seems too obvious, and yet it is meaningful for her to repeat: Twigs passes her music out as a mixtape in order to remind us the plain thing we tend to forget: that, behind this communication process, there’s always an author and a reader. Consider, also, that Twigs has also written and performed these songs, so this puts her in a rare place as creator of a ‘mixtape’ in pop music. Then the next two lyrics,

Because when I feel you, I feel me
And when I feel me, it feels good

are preluding the album for an audience (‘you’) who lives in symbiosis with the artist (‘me’) in order for both to attain happiness. (“feel good”).

During the album’s 48 minutes there are many skits where Twigs (or someone who sounds like her) discusses life casually with their friends, but in a celestial and zodiac context of profoundness and universality. In many songs, Twigs urges her listener/herself to allow free self-indulgence although maintaining self-respect; she advocates for a decadence that fosters something ultimately wholesome.

“Throw in the fire
Ego in the fire
I’ve got a love for desire
I’ve got a pain for desire

But when I’m winning, I’m a flier
Soprano in the choir
I’ve got a love for desire
It gets higher and higher”

The album brings to my mind the futuristic ultra-femininity (of almost cyber-punk flavor) employed by artists like Doja Cat in her glistening audio/video ideas and productions (see tracks: ‘Need to Know’ and ‘Kiss Me More’). Twig’s sonic atmosphere in Caprisongs takes this femininity a step further, and adds the element of the eerie.

If we adopt Fisher’s intriguing definition of the ‘eerie’ as something that is there while it shouldn’t be–or that isn’t there when it should be–we can think of Twigs’ album as being ‘eerie’ because it addresses some higher power which is unseen yet is always there and moves the world (i.e. much talk about zodiac sign; in a skit, a friend tells her “the universe is so powerful”). The universe becomes a Fisherian presence, an entity that lurks benignly behind her music’s futuristic soundscape and promises a better life to those who crave to be free.

Verdict: An album to either get intoxicated to, or have a very clean sort of experience with.

[1] In some rare occasions, concept albums depict such a clear story and/or setting that they resemble more of an audio movie than an album. There are old examples (Pink Floyd – The Wall) and new examples (Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, M.a.a.d. City) of this.

Published by Manos Apostolidis

Writer. Pharmacist on the side.

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