Pundits busy penning eulogies for progressive R&B now have a new cause célèbre thanks to Toronto’s the Weeknd, aka “Lovely” Abel Tesfaye, a boyish, brooding singer who’s maintaining a low profile despite blowing up the blogosphere last week with his Drake-approved debut mixtape.
There’s an eerie, unsettling air about House Of Balloons. The Weeknd and producers Doc McKinney and Illangelo concoct a feverish atmosphere from buzzy bass, airy and sputtering beats and dissonant chords that drift and hover like cigarette smoke. It’s an assured, well-defined sound that suggests darker forces at work beneath the Weeknd’s youthful swagger.
Lyrically, the mood vacillates between confrontational and reflective, but House Of Balloons really soars when his blunt resolve collides with a more nuanced or gentle vocal delivery, creating a tension reminiscent of Aaliyah’s clear-headed emotional states.
Top track: Coming Down
Free download at the-weeknd.com