Every Tuesday, Torontoist scours record store shelves in search of the city’s most notable new releases and brings you the best—or sometimes just the biggest—of what we’ve heard in Sound Advice.
Rebecca Black be damned, Toronto’s R&B prodigy The Weeknd, a.k.a. Abel Tesfaye, gets down on Thursday. Mere months after his House of Balloons debut floored critics (enough to garner a Polaris Prize Shortlist nod), Drake’s so-hot-he-could-sell-a-blank-.RAR-file protegé is back with the second instalment in his promised trilogy of free mixtapes. And this time he gets way down.
It’s another drugged-out, sexed-up affair, but while Balloons let us in on the excesses of Tesfaye’s tragic high life, Thursday explores the cancerous relationships he creates. Dread-laden opener “Lonely Star” (streaming right) sees him in predatory mode, promising his prey “the cars, the clothes, the dreams, the sex, the house,” but under the condition that she be his Thursday girl, “not on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.” We hear her eventually break down on “The Birds Part 1 & 2,” weeping uncontrollably while Tesfaye sings, “Don’t make me make you fall in love with a ni**a like me.” In the hands of most sizzurp-sipping R&B stars, that line would sound like a jeer, but in Tesfaye’s vulnerable falsetto, it comes off as a self-loathing plea. It’s a creepily captivating narrative revealing another side to this skeezy Lothario.
Accompanying Thursday’s serotonin-deprived emotional content are fuller, harsher arrangements, noticeably bereft of the direct melodic hooks that pervaded Balloons. Instead, we get more atmospheric tension and Lynchian spookiness. From the ominous doom-guitar riffs of “Life of the Party” to the screeching, echo-drenched feedback that creeps up on closer “Heaven or Las Vegas,” the production here signifies something deeper, darker, and more disturbing.
Tesfaye’s foreboding trajectory indicates that the final chapter of this crypt-hop trilogy will be mighty intense. We’re excited to hear it, but we’re also scared shitless.