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Album Review
Echoes of Silence

Echoes of Silence
by The Weeknd


Review Date
8th February 2012
Reviewed by
Christopher Hunt

Whether you particularly enjoyed them or not, 2011 saw the emergence of various musical genres and trends being pushed to new heights and fresh levels of exposure. We saw  Skrillex force  ‘new’ and Americanized  dubstep onto the iPods of 14 year old school kids, Jamie Xx and SBTRKT pushing UK Garage/Bass  onto the ears of folk and electro hipsters alike, and Drake, Frank Ocean, and The Weeknd successfully culturing a new breed of Alternative R’n’B  that are causing quakes in both mainstream and underground circles. So when The Weeknd released the final chapter in his trilogy of 2011 mixtapes, Echoes of Silence, it was hardly a shock to see it met with oodles of anticipation, excitement, and most of all, curiosity. Curiosity to see what would be thrown at the listener in what was an already highly unpredictable year of music. Fortunately The Weekend was equal to the task and capped of his debut year with his most refined release yet.

When Abel Tesfaye, who releases under the name The Weeknd, first emerged on the music scene with his genre-breaking House of Balloons not even a year ago, he drew acclaim and listeners from all spectrums of music. He seamlessly blended his beautiful R’n’B croon with hazy beats amongst controversially drugged-themed lyrics, ‘rock’ guitar riffs, dubstep synths, and even managed to sample Beach House and Siouxsie and the Banshees in what somehow turned out as one of the records of 2011. Where House of Balloons was a wet slap in the face of something wholly new and original, Echoes of Silence draws on those attributes to create a more focused and concentrated album for the listener. Tesfaye keeps a hold on the disturbing lyrics of House of Balloons and Thursday, but seems to centre more on creating an atmosphere as dark and as captivating as the lyrics themselves, often bringing the production to the forefront and letting Tesfaye’s vocals drift (but not disappear) into the background. The first half of the album creates a feeling as powerful, and musically amazing, and any other release of 2011.

Tesfaye really showed the world how to open an album. Opening tracks ‘High for This’ (House of Balloons), ‘Lonely Star’ (Thursday), and now Echoes of Silence’s ‘D.D’  each have the ability to demolish one’s stereo to absolute shreds. ‘D.D’, which is a straight cover of Michael Jackson’s ‘Dirty Diana’, is a fitting tribute to the King of Pop, who has an undeniable influence on Tesfaye. Being a song about an obsessive stalking groupie, it seems like Jackson wrote the song for Tesfaye, a man whose 99% of lyrical content theme on sex, parties, sex, groupies, sex, and drugs. And sex. After the industrial stampede that is ‘D.D’, Echoes slows down into ‘Montreal’, an unconventional slow-jam for Tesfaye where he admits (in English and French... he’s from Canada) his loneliness and crying despite basically being a ‘player’, “And only I can know, how close you came/But baby I’m a pro at letting go. I love it when they come and go”.  Yes the lyrics can be a bit cringe-worthy, but the musical production on tracks like ‘Montreal’ puts you back at ease if you ever find yourself doubting The Weeknd’s, at times, corny lyrics.


The production draws on Oriental aesthetics on the excellently 80’s vibed ‘Outside’, where the glitch synth transitions into the album’s fourth highlight, ‘XO/The Host’. ‘XO’ is a typical Weeknd song that draws some past party experience where Tesfaye portrays himself as a father’s worst nightmare where he draws a girl into his dark destructive life of alcohol, drugs, and sex.  The song breaks down into a musically beautiful transcend of a bad ‘trip’ for the young girl Abel managed to seduce, “and if you get too high/baby, come over here and ride it out” is beautifully vocalised over spaced out drums and bleeding synth keys.

The album seems to take a slight plummet in quality with the heavily breathed vocals on ‘Initiation’, as a strangely powerful song about getting drunk, getting high, taking clothes off, and gang bangs… or something. The album closer, ‘Echoes of Silence’ ends on a completely different tangent however. No aggressive drum pounds, no smarmy lyrics about being such a ‘badass’, just a piano and Tesfaye’s most humble vocals portraying the hurt he has inflicted upon himself and a girl who he seems to actually care about. It’s a nice change, and shows Abel’s capable of feelings that are beyond drugs, trips, and animalistic passion.

Just the first half alone of Echoes of Silence bolsters a positive admiration for the album. It’s a strong showcase of talent and growth, lyrically and musically. Echoes of Silence demonstrates The Weeknd’s potential as an artist who could break mainstream success, as well as wooing critics. With three amazing mixtapes, you can feel yourself drowning with anticipation for his debut album this year ina 2012. Hopefully Tesfaye knows how to swim because the hype won’t die down. But I think the Balloons trilogy has proved that The Weeknd knows his role, so rather than anxiousness, we can await with fully justified excitement. And let’s hope that this trend of Alternative R’n’B didn’t die with 2011.


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