Crash Thursday: The Weeknd - House of Balloons
Origin: Toronto, Ontario
We're only three full months into the new year, and we've already had a plethora of familiar artists putting out some quite outstanding music, even if the music does sound a bit same ol', same ol'. Now comes an unexpected discovery called House of Balloons by an up-and-coming R&B outfit from Toronto called The Weeknd. I say discovery because I had only heard about this artist for a couple days, but if there's any indication that 2011 is the next big year in music, their mixtape helps to cement that notion in many ways.
To put it simply, House of Balloons is sinful bliss. Topics like drugs abound throughout this 9-track mixtape, and they could not sound any better when the moods are escalated by The Weeknd's wonderful production and experimental beats and hooks that place you directly into a world so majestic you may never want to leave. Sure, these lyrics are nothing new to a genre like R&B, but they take interesting paths amidst this dreary wonderland The Weeknd has in store for us.
The majority of the album plays like its album cover and title imply - it's black and white lyrically and the music floats above you but discusses topics that send you straight to hell. Basically, it's an album that plays off an idea of contradictions, and that's the band's greatest strengths. Sometimes songs like "Coming Down," "High For This," and the title track implement sounds that probably should not find themselves together at one time, but The Weeknd's indelible mixture of distance and closeness feel right somehow. There are moments where autotune are used, but even in those instances do I find myself entranced in the composition and conception. I'm reading up that the title track uses a sample of "Happy House" by Siouxsie and the Banshees, and even that feels contradictory given the overall mood of the song, but it's mixed very well to the point that The Weeknd makes it works.
House of Balloons also has some damn sexy songs, such as "What You Need" and "The Morning" that make the entire experience even more defining. I don't necessarily mean sexy in that the songs talk about sex, but that the overall ambience produces a texture that's ear-gasmicly inclined. I enjoyed the vocal arrangements melding into the synth pads and electronics that, while sounding almost computerized, give the song the much needed natural element. "What You Need", takes off to what is instantly an album standout.
The only thing that really makes this from becoming something more than just an R&B album is the insistence of applying the same techniques to each song to maintain a linearity. Yes, each song features the dissonances and contradictions as I discussed above and that's very unique, but even THAT becomes quite more expected over the course of the tracks and slightly wears off. However, I absolutely dig what The Weeknd has to offer, and I can see House of Balloons becoming something that warrants the time and the energy to listen to by the thousands. Given the great production, the catchy beats and hooks, and the dissonant if consistent moods, I think The Weeknd are ones to look out for in the near future.
The Weeknd - "House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls"
The Weeknd - "What You Need"
House of Balloons is self-released and is available for free over at their official website.