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Annot(e)tations: FKA Twigs soundtracks past loves in future soundscapes on ‘home with you’

Single Cover for FKA Twigs' "home with you" (source: Pitchfork)

Annot(e)tations is a column by Austin Nguyen that shines a light on the hidden gems of recently released albums or singles that may have flown under your radar. This week, he discusses FKA Twigs’ “home with you.”

When I first started doing this in my sophomore year (the whole writing about music, pinpointing what defines a song worthy of discussion, being a tangential rambler of a writer), I was driven by this abstract standard of the avant garde.

Originality and innovation, I used to think, were the only true criteria of what made a song more than commercialized fodder when — in reality — that couldn’t be farther from reality.

The world doesn’t need more Frank Oceans (but I don’t think any of us would mind…); we just want artists who breathe life into the lyrics we’ve lived and loved instead of just rehashing ideas that someone else already did better.

So maybe Hatchie isn’t part of Pitchfork’s Instant Classics or some other revolutionary postmodern canon, but that doesn’t mean some of her tracks like “Stay With Me” (no, NOT Sam Smith’s) are any less poignant and soul-wrenching than, say, Fiona Apple’s “Regret” (or any other idiosyncratic song penned by the critically-praised greats).

However, when those two roads do converge, when the stories of the past are set to the soundtrack of the future, a song becomes indelible, fossilizing the present in melodies and sonic landscapes while being a precursor of the possibilities to come.

And I can think of no better song that transcends fickle trends and charts with its experimentation than FKA Twigs’ “home with you,” shifting between spectrum extrema — from electronic to acoustic, from cryptic poetry to prosaic confessions, and from barren desert emptiness to concert hall orchestra cacophony.

Garbled to near incomprehensibility, FKA Twigs begins the song with two-word phrases spoken in a restrained staccato accompanied by the lingering notes of a synth. The shadow of a bass seems to pass through occasionally, shuddering with suspense as the singer’s voice swells with resentment in the pre-chorus.

“I wonder if you think that I could ever help you fly,” Twigs rumbles, the last word distorted to a guttural shout in the midnight void before the production’s static fizzles out.

If the verses are where Twigs is consumed with pent-up emotions, becoming more and more phrenetic with each question left unanswered crawling around her mind, the choruses are where she lets it wash over her, rising above the grating metallic debris to touch the countryside sunlight.

Her wispy soprano floats with her, reaching the upper echelons of her register as she tentatively whispers, “I didn’t know that you were lonely/ If you had just told me, I’d/ Be home with you.”

It feels stripped, vulnerable, to the point where the singer could crumble at any second, a reverie fragile enough that one out-of-place note could break it.

It doesn’t though. Twigs’ promise weathers another storm in the thundering electronic dissonance of the second verse, brewing until the final chromaticisms of the melody offer a catharsis into the last chorus.

Flutes, horns, and cellos whirl around in improvisation as Twigs is finally “running down the hill” to be embraced and spun around by the person she’s been searching for all along, this long-awaited, cinematic reunion overflowing with exuberance.

But only then, in the arms of the one she loves (her inner child, possibly in accordance to the, um, wacky music video), does she truly let go of those what-if’s, cut open her heart, and smile in the bittersweet truth:

“I never told you I was lonely too.”

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