When LP1 was released late in the summer of 2014, it was met with great acclaim, scoring an 86 average on Metacritic and earning the distinction of the most recent album to appear on Pitchfork‘s list of the best albums of the decade so far when it was published pretty soon afterward, placing 87th. When the dust had settled (as it always does) at the end of the year, LP1 appeared on every year-end list in sight, including Rolling Stone‘s (#16) and, yes, Pitchfork‘s (#2). Though R&B albums tend to be overlooked by critics — who over-cover indie rock by a ridiculously wide margin, though it’s understandable since most rock is indie these days (very few major label rock artists get much exposure now, relatively speaking) — a cursory look reveals that LP1 has the required pedigree to be a Pitchfork sensation. For one, FKA twigs is signed to Young Turks, which is part of the legendary Beggars Group, an independent UK record company that also includes labels like Matador, Rough Trade, 4AD, and XL.
There’s nothing music critics love to do more than to stake a huge claim that an unknown work is great so they can be proven right later. I’m not sure why, really — if a critic had gotten Nevermind “right,” for instance, and predicted upon its release that it would one day be considered one of the greatest albums of all time, I doubt all that much would really be gained. Would that give him/her a promotion? License to write a book? I don’t really see the point, which is why even when I make such pronouncements — as I did with 2013‘s Shaking the Habitual by the Knife — I’m careful to keep in mind that my opinion doesn’t matter very much, and that I only write these reviews because I want to.
Basically, I write these reviews for two primary reasons: to expose myself to as many good new albums as possible and to keep a record of my thoughts on those albums, since I plan to keep adding more and more albums to my favorite albums list and want to eventually incorporate more contemporary releases. (My original list was almost entirely classics.) Anyway, let’s talk about whether LP1‘s status as an instant indie classic is deserved. It’s a solid album, and at times the songs veer into the territory of the excellent (“Lights On,” “Numbers”). The ambiance drips with the sweatiness of a strip club, but unlike similarly focused R&B that strives to land on Top 40 radio these days (e.g., Beyoncé‘s “Drunk in Love”), the feel is considerably more intimate; instead of pushing outward into the bright lights of the stage, FKA twigs (born Tahliah Debrett Barnett in the UK) instead shrinks away into the shadows that crawl along the walls.
“When I trust you we can do it with the lights on,” she softly sighs repeatedly on “Lights On,” one of the aforementioned excellent tracks on LP1. Without question, the album is the work of an introvert, a dreamer who absorbs stimuli from the outside world and projects it within her own mind until it spills out on record. Production-wise, what’s here is pretty much straight-up electro-R&B, but as I intimated above, it avoids bombast, and it’s also executed pretty well. The album is good, sonically, but it doesn’t strike me as all that unique. The fixation by the music press on the album is understandable — when artist inhabits the shadows in the favor of the spotlight, as it were, depth is perceived, whether it is real or not — but is it merited? For the most part, yes. It’s a good album, maybe even a very good one. I definitely wouldn’t go as far as to award it “future all-time classic” status, but as an indie electro-R&B album, it’s the work of an authentic personality and is enjoyable listening, even if the songs start to sound a little samey (to me, at least) after a few spins.