Young Jamaican-English-Spanish singer-songwriter and dancer FKA Twigs (real name: Tahliah Debrett Barnett) has been compelling listeners and viewers across the globe since 2013, when her EP2 record and marketing campaign floored people through incredibly delicate, detailed and warm-hearted sonics matched with ornate pitch-perfect visuals.
With LP1 she expands on this, gifting us with 40 minutes of equally shimmering dream song, created with assistance from Arca, Clams Casino, Sampha, Devonté Hynes and other modern talents. Epitomising smart 21st-century pop music, FKA Twigs’ palette clearly takes weighty influence from Björk, Tricky, Beyoncé, Ciara, early-era The Weeknd, Kate Bush, Jamie XX and even perhaps Tori Amos. But as LP1 gently uncurls, she articulates and expresses a singular and compelling artistic vision all of her own.
Lead single ‘Two Weeks’ and its incredible Alejandro Jodorowsky-recalling video confirmed her mercurial 2013 singles ‘Water Me’ and ‘Papi Pacify’ were just the tip of the iceberg. In line with this trajectory, LP1, heavy as it is with blindsiding cut after blindsiding cut, never sees FKA Twigs lapsing into the over-thought head space that often overtakes musicians who value art-house sensibilities as much as pop aspirations. The outcome is one of the best albums of the year.
The most recent solo release from Melbourne-based vocalist and producer Sui Zhen (real name: Becky Sui Zhen), Female Basic is a sonic exploration of robotics professor Masahiro Mori’s uncanny valley concept, as filtered through her personal experiences in Australia and Japan.
Presented through outboard gear-generated synth-pop beatscapes and dreamy vocals, its five songs ride the line between real and unreal, creating a listening experience that compels and chills in equal measure. ‘Beige Dip’ evokes wading into crystal-clear ocean water on a sunny day, while the organic cyber-chords of ‘Stargate’ suggest a splendidly direct interweaving of nature and technology.
As Courtship Ritual, New York-dwelling Californians Jared Olmsted and Monica Salazar advocate for a lo-fi dream-pop sound-world primarily concerned with mining a new strain of minimalism within minimalism.
Comparable with early-era Beach House or mid-period Cocteau Twins, their debut album Pith showcases Monica’s fragile yet firm voice and elegant synth figures ebbing and flowing against Jared’s syncopated drum programming and hypnotic fretwork.
Purveyors of sonic environments as opposed to traditional storytelling in song, their hazy music still feels underscored by a sing-along pop classicism, as seen best on ‘Yellow Spiders’, ‘Kingdom of Beauty’ and ‘Six Foot Summer’.