By: Max Burke
If you’ve been following music much on the Internet the past year, you might have come across The Weeknd. If you researched the topic any further, you might have realized that beyond a few recent mixtapes and his collaboration with Drake, there is little formally known about Abel Tesfaye—the enigmatic twenty-one year old behind the project. And that’s probably how he prefers it. The soundscapes Tesfaye and his producers have created here and on the two previous mixtapes—House of Balloons and Thursday—play into the enigma: they’re perpetually hazy, yet frequently captivating. In the exhilarating opener “D.D.”, they slowly build up a hazy atmosphere with eerie ambient loops, before releasing into a heavy, percussion-driven beat, in which Tesfaye’s screaming vocals evoke Michael Jackson. The instrumental energy never quite reaches the same level throughout the rest of Echoes, but it is no less interesting. The Weeknd offers a very dark, yet beautiful take on R&B that is unlike any other.
The darkness and torment show through in the immensely introspective stories Tesfaye tells. Unlike the mysteriousness of the sounds, Tesfaye is very open about drug-filled nights and hedonistic sexual encounters. It’s at once enthralling and disturbing. “All the pain that you feel you can tell that we ain’t making no love/But I’ll pretend,” he croons on “Outside.” However, for all the apparent libertinism, Tesfaye can also seem fragile and vulnerable at times. Particularly so on the closing ballad, in which his final emotional plea is: “Baby please…Don’t you leave my little life.” Indeed, the murkiness and anguish can be bit overdone and repetitive. Echoes never feels as diverse and complete as House. Nor does it have the occasional sugar-coated song that keeps you coming back again-and-again (think “The Morning”). But Echoes is enticing nonetheless; and it certainly deserves a Listen.
Highlights: “D.D.”; “Outside”; “XO/The Host”