“Only a fool could think the Weeknd the most exciting thing to happen to R&B in 2011….”

Village Voice:

“Two days ago, r&b changed again. On Sunday night, a Canadian collective called the Weeknd released their nine-song mixtape, House of Balloons, on their web site… House of Balloons is impressive. It’s patient, often gorgeous, and consistently louche—sex, drugs and drink seem to be the raison d’etre—with the sort of blown-out underbelly and echo-laden crooning that has already made Drake’s less-than-a-year-old Thank Me Later such an influential guidepost… At the moment, [Frank] Ocean and the Weeknd feel like revolutionaries…”


“The Weeknd
House Of Balloons
[Self-Released; 2011]
Best New Music: 8.5

Of course, the Weeknd are not without forebears—producers from Rodney Jerkins to Static Major and recently The-Dream have been pushing the sonic boundaries of R&B for some time now. Where the Weeknd differ, though, is that their source material pulls from the leftfield (the title track re-purposes Siouxsie and the Banshee’s “Happy House”, two songs here ride mutated Beach House samples), and their approach is more about building vibe and atmosphere. They’re great at rich, woozy compositions that send Tesfaye’s aching falsetto through the mix. An example is “The Morning”, which feels at first like a spacey synth instrumental before a stuttering digital drumbeat announces this massive, swaying chorus that enters your brain and refuses to leave…

The group’s penchant for druggy atmospherics is mirrored in their lyrical content, which is overtly sexual, narcotics-focused, and occasionally downright frightening. Debauchery is obviously nothing new in R&B, but this takes it a step further—the drugs are harder, the come-ons feel predatory and lecherous, and the general feeling is self-hating rather than celebratory…

It’s hard to think of a record since probably the xx’s debut (definitely a touchstone here) that so fully embodies such a specific nocturnal quality. And even though the image of nightlife painted by the Weeknd isn’t a place you’d ever want to live, it’s one that’s frankly very hard to stop listening to…”

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