Lush & Desperate
On the darkest day of the year, The Weeknd released a mixtape to match, Echoes of Silence. As any fans have come to realize, though, the music of The Weeknd is inescapably dark. Indeed, this album is not all that different than the other The Weeknd’s other free mixtapes of 2011, House of Balloons and Thursday. Plus, with the November release of Drake’s fairly dark sophomore album Take Care, it seems Abel Tesfaye, the artist known as The Weeknd, is entering a crowded field of sound (cheekily dubbed PBR&B—that is, R&B for hipsters).
Echoes of Silence distinguishes itself as perhaps The Weeknd’s most lyrically coherent work, yet his albums so far have followed the same Phoenix-like narrative: rising only to self-immolate among the temptations of drugs and sex, only to come back with the next album—one could easily attribute these exact characteristics to Frank Ocean’s or Kanye’s dark turns, too. On Echoes of Silence, The Weeknd’s sound remains essentially the same—the lush, modified voice behind the drugged-out ambience with pop samples; the music is still nocturnal and the lyrics introspective. EoS songs like “Next” could easily fall into either previous mixtape, and one track is even titled “Same Old Song.” So what makes this album different, and thereby somehow more worthy than the gigabytes he ought already occupy?
The Weeknd continues on the shady path he started down with last March’s House of Balloons, but in Echoes of Silence he hurries his pace. It is undoubtedly more uptempo and engaging than his previous works, and a notable departure from the relaxed (numbed?) Thursday. And The Weeknd continues to push the tempo in defining the post-dubstep musical landscape, wrestling the sound away from the likes of spacey James Blake and How to Dress Well. Moving past even the sound of The Weeknd’s omnipresent contributions to Take Care, the track “Initiation” and its industrial, gritty sound show promising, new territory.
Echoes of Silence, moreover, opens in a different direction, with an unconventional cover of Michael Jackson’s “Dirty Diana”—it is the crown prince of post-dubstep/PBR&B channeling the King of Pop. Tesfaye really shows off his vocal range and the vocal semblance is eerie, appropriate to form. It’s similar to his other work, but still fantastic—there’s simply no other artist making music this dark and desolate. There’s simply no other artist simultaneously capturing lushness and despair with such concentration and flawless production. And to take it with a grain of salt, without the unprecedented acclaim of House of Balloons as a bar, Echoes of Silence would rank among the best albums of the year. It’s definitely a must-have for any fan of this The Weeknd’s emerging, striking sound.
What’s next for this artist? We’ll have to wait and see as he works to re-master 2011’s House of Ballons-Thursday-Echoes of Silence trilogy for re-release.
I can’t wait to re-release The Trilogy as a package, re-mastered for you to collect with bonus features… #2012
— The Weeknd (@theweekndxo) December 26, 2011