The Weeknd

House of Balloons

BY Anupa MistryPublished Mar 21, 2011

Despite the label-less status of enigmatic Toronto, ON project the Weeknd (Abel Tesfaye), that it was first brought to light via Drake suggests things aren't as indie as they seem. At worst, we've been fooled by a ground-up, buzz-seeking marketing plan; at best, it's a damn good plan. Regardless, the Weeknd's free album, House of Balloons (a nine-track, R&B-inspired post-club come down) has lasted beyond the hype because it's good. Not quite as left leaning as some R&B newbies are implying (see Bilal, Ryan Leslie and Tiombe Lockhart for evidence), House of Balloons is a sonically calculated step toward fusing the clubs-girls-drink-and-drugs template of R&B with trendy production techniques that evoke the stuttered, whole note progression of James Blake and sepulchral atmosphere of the XX. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the sample choices: there's chopped Aaliyah on the double-time '90s chillout homage "What U Need," Siouxsie & the Banshees' minor tonality on "House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls" and clouded, lo-fi Beach House permeating a couple of places. Though Tesfaye's falsetto, at times, plays a little dead-eyed, House of Balloons is a slow-grower, the kind of mood music you didn't know you needed until it came along.

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