Sumptuous vintage-flavoured loveliness; no sophomore slump from the queen of experimental pop.
Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising
This album popped up on quite a few Best of 2019 lists last year, which is how it came to my attention; prior to that I’ve never heard of Weyes Blood a.k.a. American singer-songwriter Natalie Mering. Her nostalgic, retro-flavoured sound is steeped in the lush 70s pop and her languid, crystalline voice is strongly reminiscent of Karen Carpenter. The album manages to be both soothing and subtly unsettling, and is undeniably gorgeous, though because it never really switches gears it took a while for the individual songs to stand out. The title apparently refers to younger Mering’s obsession with a certain 1997 blockbuster and its grand tragic romance, and the album’s centrepiece Movies is an unabashed ode to the power and romantic pull of the cinema.
FKA twigs – Magdalene
I was a huge fan of FKA twigs’ (a.k.a. Tahliah Barnett) stunningly idiosyncratic debut from over five years ago, and if anything her follow-up, named after the biblical Mary Magdalene, is even more adventurous, ambitious and wonderfully weird. It’s also a deeply personal album, influenced by Barnett’s painful break-up with Robert Pattinson and the toxic effect of becoming gossip fodder. Time will tell if it becomes my favourite of hers, but it’s already pretty damn close!
Musically, she hasn’t completely abandoned the R&B beats that marked her first album, but more often than not Magdalene veers off into a more abstract and chaotic territory, with Barnett’s high voice floating like a piece of gossamer over eerie electronica, vocal samples and abrasive percussion. On fallen alien, her vocals get more aggressive and biting, to a thrilling effect; it really made me wish she went into this mode more often.