Upon the release of his debut mixtape House of Balloons back in March, Toronto-based R&B crooner the Weeknd (real name Abel Tesfaye) became a scorching hot commodity throughout the music world, and for a good reason: his experimental, dubstep-influenced brand of R&B garnered rave reviews and a co-sign from fellow Torontonian Drake.
On Thursday, his second release this year alone, he relies far too heavily on his first outing’s mellow tones and sex, drugs and rock & roll themes, often at the expense of hooks and creative growth.
While tracks like the melancholic, seven-minute “The Zone” (on which Drake drops a guest verse) and the stripped down, acoustic number “Rolling Stone” will pull at the female listener’s heartstrings through his frequent use of his falsetto and contemporary R&B vocal stylings, his apparent fixation on partying, sex, and what happens the morning after can become somewhat grating upon repeat listens.
Trial track: “Rolling Stone”
– David MacIntyre
Red Hot Chili Peppers â€“ I’m With You (Warner Bros; 2011)
Normally bands whose careers have successfully spanned over 30 years have virtually nothing left to prove. This is not the case with the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ latest release I’m With You. There’s no doubt that for most people, full attention will be devoted to scrutinizing the void left by John Frusciante on guitar.
However, much credit should go to Josh Klinghoffer for filling the gargantuan shoes left behind. Yes, the band still sounds like the Red Hot Chili Peppers we all know and love, borrowing from the funky-pop style they’ve called their own for the past decade or so.
If there’s any criticism to be made on this record, it’s that it shows little attempt to move forward with the band’s sound, preferring to continue exactly where Stadium Arcadium left off. That being said, the album in itself is quite good and, although not groundbreaking in any way, contains some of the band’s catchiest tunes to date.
Trial track: “Monarchy of Roses”
– Robert Flis
When two of the biggest names in hip-hop come together for one LP, it’s hardly unrealistic for one to expect it to be the stuff of legends. And on Watch the Throne, there are points where the dynamic duo come close to such territory, though the album’s cons also tend to outweigh its pros at times.
Trading verses back and forth throughout most of the LP, the duo’s most explosive moments come on tracks such as “That’s My Bitch” which shows the two at their most motivated, as well as on the Nina Simone-sampling “New Day,” where Jigga and Ye can be heard talking to their hypothetical sons over a mellowed out RZA beat in a rare moment of introspection. The album loses points, however, on an irritating interpolation of Cassius’ “I Love You So” on “Why I Love You”, as well as through the album’s often braggadocious, materialistic themes.
While Watch the Throne certainly has its moments of brilliance, its repetitive themes and overall lack of cohesiveness make it somewhat of a shadow of what it could have been.
Trial track: “That’s My Bitch”
– David MacIntyre
Not many bands can make a political statement quite like The Clash. Released in 1982, Combat Rock, their fifth studio album, conveys their anti-racism, anti-war, anti-aristocracy message in the catchiest way possible. “This is a public service announcement â€“ with guitar!” sings Joe Strummer at the top of his lungs on the opening track “Know Your Rights.” But The Clash itself was a public service announcement not only with guitar but with a blend of genres ranging from funk to reggae.
The band managed to infiltrate the mainstream with “Should I Stay or Should I Go?,” one of their most recognizable songs, and delighted people with “Rock the Casbah.” As the album progresses, the songs begin to sound more exotic as traditional drum sets are replaced with bongos and wind instruments add a sense of mystery. Immigration, war, poverty and disillusionment are some of the many themes covered in Combat Rock and The Clash addresses them in a way no band had previously attempted.
Unfortunately, the album was the beginning of the end. Four years and one more album later, The Clash called it quits but still remains “The Only Band That Matters.”
Trial track: “Straight to Hell”
– Elizabeth Tomaras