In all fairness, not enough dust has gathered on last year’s mixtape sensation The Weeknd to classify them in the category of older or forgotten records. So why discuss them now? Simple, after releasing three sensational, free mixtapes over the internet in 2011, the genius of Abel Tesfaye and crew has been officially preserved on tangible medium (and appeared on Spotify). Also, I recently played this album at a gathering and was taken aback that a number of folks were not familiar with the band. (I thought that after their work on Drake’s “Crew Love” and the fact that they could sell out a local venue in less than ten minutes (and were commanding $100+ for a ticket on the secondary markets) like local heroes, Wilco, these guys were household names. Assumptions are always dangerous.)
Released earlier in November of 2012, Trilogy collects the House of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes of Silence mixtapes and illustrate The Weeknd’s impressive ability to produce deconstructed, lush R&B and Soul with the a downtempo/house sensibility. Starting with House of Balloons, the Weeknd offered the R&B/Soul equivalent/response to The XX’s debut record: a collection of tracks built on restraint, tension and unexpected pauses or breakdowns. Like Frank Ocean’s channelOrange, Trilogy doesn’t necessarily overwhelm you with club-ready beats but offers a slower, more thoughtful, and lyrically biting set of songs to offer as anodyne to the fast-paced nature of the world. In a musical landscape dominated by overdubbing, excess production, and unrelenting dance beats (don’t get me wrong I like dance beats), it is refreshing to hear artists dial it back and down, strip songs to their most essential elements and still provide an aural and emotional power in the starkness. Another musical analog I’d throw out for this album is Porthishead’s Dummy, which also offered a stark juxtaposition against the aggressive grunge/alternative rock that dominated the early 90s. Dummy helped familiarize and popularize an American audience with Trip-Hop and House at time when these were still largely European and underground phenomena. With the work of the Weeknd, Frank Ocean, and How To Dress Well, perhaps we’ll see more R&B artists dialing back the clock and offering a new set of more contemplative chill-out tracks and albums. I for one welcome this development.
With nearly 30 songs in the collection, it’s impossible to cover a sizeable portion of the material, but for those looking for a musical aperitif I’d offer the following five songs as a good gateway: “House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls” (a top ten song in my 2011 list), “The Morning“, “The Knowing“, “Montreal” and “D.D.” (a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Dirty Diana” done with such precision you might think he sampled Michael).
You can purchase the record at your local store, online or via iTunes. To learn more about The Weeknd visit their site.
I take no responsibility if you are slowly grooving in your seat or close the door, turn the lights down low and practice your dance moves.