What’s Good: The Weekly New Music Newsletter is a new publication by Pitchfork’s founder and former Editor-in-Chief, Ryan Schreiber. Launched in September 2021 as a companion to Schreiber’s long-running weekly playlist of the same name, What’s Good outlines the week’s most essential tracks and albums, with a special focus on new and emerging artists. Listen to What’s Good on Spotify and Apple Music— and don’t forget to subscribe. (It’s free!)
FKA twigs’ new mixtape CAPRISONGS dropped last week, and in addition to being one of her most casual and off-the-cuff releases, it features a thrilling roster of producers, collaborators, and guest spots. Some of those names are familiar, such as Koreless and Arca, while others— Rosalía producer El Guincho, TDE stalwart Sounwave, and Mike Dean (Swiss army knife to Kanye West and Travis Scott)— are newer to the twigs universe.
While it can at times be difficult to discern, on any given track, where a producer’s work ends and twigs’ begins, features are unmistakable, and CAPRISONGS’ guest spots range from global superstars to relative unknowns, but her choices are pristinely curated across the board. Here, twigs leverages her platform to empower artists on the come-up with special focus on those who, like her, are at the vanguard of progressive and experimental music.
To celebrate these choices, I’m (lightly) ranking those features from least to most thrilling, with no scientific criteria beyond my own impression of how well these artists meshed with the unique soundworld twigs has created here, and how much they pushed themselves to make a memorable impression.
Christi Meshell is a noted perfumer and founder of her own House of Matriarch line of niche fragrances. Being not a musician, it’s hardly fair to put her on this list (let alone dead last), but she makes quite an impression near the end of this record with a googly-eyed astrology reading that brings serious Jennifer Coolidge-character energy. No disrespect, but the awe with which Meshell presents this chart reading is mildly absurd and frankly disproportionate to its vague and not-at-all-specific revelations. It's the only actual bummer on the tape— and blessedly brief.
Canadian crooner Daniel Caesar is usually about as interesting as a plant, so by virtue of proximity alone, this stands to be the most compelling performance he’s likely to give. His appearance lends a beige ambiance to this otherwise gorgeous, color-rich ballad but blends so neutrally into the background you may hardly notice it’s there.
One of the straight-up weirder tracks on CAPRISONGS, “which way” is a pleasant (if slightly chaotic) introduction to underground East London rock trio Dystopia. Their contribution shakes up the middle of the record with an injection of looser, riskier songwriting that appears to push even twigs to the outer limits of her comfort zone.
It’s a joy to hear twigs embrace a full-on pop mentality on “tears in the club” without sacrificing any of her vision. Amping up her delivery to meet her moment alongside one of the galaxy’s most massive stars, her emotive performance is one of this record’s finest. The Weeknd doesn’t share that effort level, turning in a serviceable hook with a slightly distracted quality. Following the avant-pop leanings of Dawn FM, the timing was just right for a supernova here, but while we don’t quite get fireworks chemistry, “tears in the club” proves they’re a solid match.
A lot of UK excellence here: Jorja Smith and Unknown T are a formidable duo on “darjeeling.” The neo-soul singer lays down an intoxicating refrain, while the drill star turns up in the latter half for a showstopping verse. twigs seems inspired by these eclectic deliveries, stepping up with her own brisk, rap-inspired flow.
Nigerian artist Rema shines on “jealousy,” with twigs granting him the song’s first lovesick verse before the two come together to ride the bouncy afrorave beat and glide off each other. On a tape with a lot of impressive vocal arrangements, hearing Rema and twigs sing in unison feels distinctive in its simplicity; their individual tones cut through the AutoTune gauze with ease.
A pioneering force in the new wave of UK post-rap (and one of this newsletter's Nine Artists Who'll Change the Game in 2022), Shygirl’s appearance on this decidedly boundary-pushing tape makes for one of its most precisely on-target collaborations. The NUXXE label co-founder lends an undeniable swagger to the dub-influenced “papi bones,” bringing raunchy, referential bars (“Papi got an itch I could pacify”) to intertwine with twigs’ verses.
Pa Salieu is a magnetic force, and his appearance on CAPRISONGS’ second track, “honda,” helps set the stage for the entire tape. His rambunctious voice gives the song a palpable energy, and his ear for hooks is unparalleled; fans of Send Them To Coventry will immediately notice his ability to twirl melodies out of thin air. Pa is given just a few bars to make an impact, but in that short time, he helps twigs make one of the best songs on the project.
FKA twigs — “thank you song”
For her album closer— a revealing, tender ode to a lover titled "thank you song"— FKA twigs chose Arca to produce. (Only guest spots, not producers, were included in the above rankings.) Here, she leans into her best Imogen Heap impression, riding waves of synth strings and warm keys. It’s a breathtaking finale and twigs sums it up with grace and poise: “You turned on the light as you put me closer/ All I know is that no one loves me like you/ Love in motion seems to save me now.”
Earl Sweatshirt — “Vision (feat. ZelooperZ)” + “Fire in the Hole”
On Earl Sweatshirt’s latest album SICK!, the rapping is knotty and dexterous. Backed by crisp production from the likes of the Alchemist and Black Noi$e, Earl pushes his bars with new clarity, like on closer “Fire in the Hole”: “It's been a minute since I blew up your line/ I leave town fast/ Out the dungeon like Outkast/ Funnels with the loud pack/ Hunter's boots crunchin' through the brown grass.”
On another highlight, “Vision,” Earl and Bruiser Brigade’s ZelooperZ chop it up over trap drums and a dizzying piano line. Long underrated among young MCs, Zelooperz’s contribution is a revelation: “I get the green like it's kelp/ I put that shit in the pail/ Make sure my momma do well/ All of my bitches do well/ All of my bitches do well/ My bitches shine like jew-els.”
Beach House — “Masquerade”
In the third of four drops around their forthcoming double album, Once Twice Melody, Beach House seems to be steering towards a wintrier sound with blissed-out, maximal production work. Of these latest tracks, “Sunset” and “Only You Know” both stand out strong, but the star is “Masquerade,” blending their brand of exquisite dream-pop with elements of 90s post-industrial-influenced alt-rock. Victoria LeGrand’s voice is haunting as ever, even when it recedes into the bath of hollowed-out pads, FM-synth bells, and lo-fi drum machines, peeking out from a forest of digital reverb swells.
DJ Python — “Angel”
The latest cut from DJ Python thrums with rumbling kick drums and vaporous synths. It’s a more overtly melodic track than you might expect from the Queens-based electronic producer, swapping out the polyrhythmic percussion sequences of 2020’s Mas Amable with blissful ambient techno.
Hatchie — “Quicksand”
Brisbane dream-pop artist Hatchie has returned with “Quicksand,” a smoldering epic built around the subtle shifts in her pristine vocals. Imagine New Order as fronted by Elizabeth Fraser, yet with whirling shoegaze production and state-of-the-art effects that place it distinctly in the modern era; each time that chorus swings around, it feels revelatory.
Saba — "Come My Way (feat. Krayzie Bone)"
You can tell Saba wrote “Come My Way” with Krayzie Bone in mind. The lilting guitar sample, lush synth pads, and woozy triplet flows during the chorus make this a refreshing throwback to the melodic rap Bone Thugs conjured in 1990s Cleveland.
Amber Mark — "Softly (feat. Popcaan)"
After spending the past five years issuing a series of solid EPs and standalone singles, Nashville-born R&B queen Amber Mark is gearing up to release of her very first full-length album, Three Dimensions Deep, next Friday. Its fifth single just dropped along with two remixes, and this version, featuring Popcaan, a reigning king of dancehall, emphasizes the track's Jamaica-flavored two-step beat and sweltering chorus.
Susobrino — “El Camino Refleja”
Belgium-based Afro-Latino producer Susobrino brings the heat with “El Camino Refleja,” a dizzying percussion composition with a strata of sculpted effects and speaker-busting gut punches. Simple piano notes scatter atop eerie string suites like granules, dotting the mix in quick bursts until a gorgeous smattering of acoustic guitars thrum through the finale.
Nilüfer Yanya — "midnight sun"
London indie viber Nilüfer Yanya's latest marks the second single from her forthcoming sophomore outing, Painless. It continues fleshing out her distinctive sound, dovetailing her traditional rock influences with a hint of Sade's sophisticated soul and 90s-style sampled beats.
yeule — "too dead inside"
Singapore born, London-based yeule (aka Nat Ćmiel) conjures spirits from club nights past and future on “Too Dead Inside.” The haunting, nihilistic banger finds the singer stuck in that tricky purgatory between the night out and the morning after: “Where do l go when I want to see the sunrisе, but I'm too dead inside?”
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