Tag Archives: The Weeknd

January 2012 Consider/Avoid

If the waning weeks of 2011 hadn’t gotten away from me, I’d have given Girls and Los Campesinos! the full B+ reviews they deserve, but my reservations about both records (Girls made a theoretically admirable move towards Big Rock that led them to the actually tedious land of flutes and seven-minute run times, while the unsurprisingly clever Los Campesinos! album was unsurprising in most other ways too) were serious enough that I decided to include both in this final nod to the year just passed. Elsewhere, The Roots affirm my uneasy feelings about concept albums, but still turn in their second admirable record in as many years; Fallout Boy front man Patrick Stump uses his Micheal Jackson impression to put across some disarmingly articulate songs about pushing 30 in the lower reaches of the 99%; and Coldplay, a band I don’t hate on for sport, spends the better part of an hour in search of a memorable tune.

CONSIDER
Girls: Father, Son, Holy Ghost (“Honey Bunny,” “Alex,”“Jamie Marie”)
A$AP Rocky: LiveLoveA$AP (“Wassup,” “Demons”)
Ryan Adams: Ashes & Fire (“Dirty Rain,” “Lucky Now”)
Phonte: Charity Starts at Home (“Everything is Falling Down”)
The Black Keys: El Camino (“Little Black Submarines”)
Florence + the Machine: Ceremonials (“Shake It Out”)
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AVOID
Coldplay: Mylo Xyloto
The Weeknd: Thursday
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Shabazz Palaces/The Weeknd

The Weeknd’s Abel Tesfaye and Shabazz Palaces’ Ishmael Butler have stoked almost as much interest for their reclusiveness (both released their music anonymously before becoming big things, though Butler had a former public life with Digable Planets) as the shadowy R&B and hip-hop that dominate their highly celebrated records. Black Up, which follows two Shabazz EPs from 2009, is the first hip-hop album ever released by Seattle’s Sub Pop label. House of Balloons is The Weekend’s debut mix tape, and Tesfaye has already released a second in the time it’s taken me to get around to reviewing it. I’ll let the grade below stand for both.

Shabazz Palaces: Black Up
Ishmael Butler makes his intentions known less than a minute into Shabazz Palaces’ debut LP: “I run on feelings/Fuck your facts.” That’s a good mantra for a record that favors the physical experience of music—beats that shift and crack and splinter—over the intellectual. That’s not to say the words aren’t important; it’s that Butler uses them to direct you back to the music, or at least discourage you from parsing the two things separately. He and cohort Tendai Maraire are more interested in creating one long, immersive experience than they are in individual songs, which may be why they have titles as unwieldy as “A Treatease Dedicated To The Avian Airess From North East Nubis (1000 Questions, 1 Answer).” You’re supposed to let the whole thing, and all the feelings Butler and Maraire pack it with, wash over you. Those feelings peak on “Recollections of the Wrath,” when Butler raps “With that starlight in your eyes/you want to find surprise/With the neon in your blood/you move to find your love/tonight.” He hits the ‘tonight’ hard, word and beat working together, as if to ask what you’re waiting for. A-
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The Weeknd: House of Balloons
Call me a puritan, but anyone who begins his record with what sounds an awful lot like a date rape, then has the stones to end it with a wronged-man ballad, makes me feel gross. Weeknd mastermind Abel Tesfaye is a Canadian R&B guy whose principle concerns are designer drugs, designer women, and the clearest path to obtaining both at once. Unbridled hedonism has its place, and sometimes the biggest creeps make the most compelling music, but Tesfaye is too shallow to generate anything besides atmosphere. His sound is as edgy and paranoid as a morning after, and if he weren’t so mean-spirited, his songs would work as something besides background music. I don’t doubt for a moment that this would sound great in a club—a cavernous one, with the bass so loud you can barely hear the words. B-
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