The Weekend AKA Abel Tesfaye has been streaming his new album Kiss Land online ahead of it’s September 9th release. I’ve found myself revisiting it frequently since I first heard it and it’s appeal is growing every time. I liked his previous mixtapes; House of Balloons, Thursday and Echoes of Silence that would later be released as Trilogy but found I end up stripping the content down into a more streamline mix of his best tracks.
For me Kiss Land feels like The Weeknd’s most satisfying collection of songs to do date. Opening track Professional sets the scene perfectly, blossoming in truly cosmic fashion. The musical backdrop shimmers and shudders around Tesfaye’s silky vocals until at just over two minutes in, the song morphs and sheds it’s skin to show something completely different. This is a device he uses well and has done since his early days (see House of Balloons / Glass Table Girls). As Tesfaye mentioned in an interview the influence of ‘directors of fear’ like John Carpenter are apparent this time though and you can hear them in the foggy atmospheric aesthetics.
Thematically the content is much the same as his previous work. Visions of femme fatales that are alluring but painful (as portrayed in ‘The Town’), and the pitfalls of the afterparty. However, the shadows he casts around his alternative Michael Jackson croon constantly keep things interesting. His candid confessions can make the listener feel voyeuristic which makes for an uncomfortable but exhilarating experience.
The production is colossal. Drums are huge and industrial, i.e in ‘Belong To The World’, piano loops stab and voices echo in the midst of a codeine mist of synthesizers. It can be a disorientating listen but an addictive one.
Kiss Land has moments of understated epicness and the feeling of a movie soundtrack. The distant power ballad guitar and synth hook in ‘Love in The Sky’ feel classically cinematic and finale ‘Tears in The Rain’ is The Weeknd on a stadium Prince-sized scale. ‘Wanderlust’ might be The Weeknd’s funkiest track to date and could fit perfectly in a nightclub sequence in an 80’s movie.
Guests are few and far between. Long term Weeknd collaborator Drake has a nice turn on ‘Live For’ but you definitely get the feeling this is Tesfaye’s show. He is the auteur and he knows how to pull the strings perfectly.
Track ‘Kiss Land’ samples Silky Johnson’s ‘Nothings Gonna Change’ which was also used by Cloud rap pioneers Main Attrakionsz in 2011. Here though it’s used alongside screams to paint a fairly nightmarish vision that portrays Kiss Land as some sort of nightmarish fun house. Again halfway through the shapes shift and things go a little bit K hole. It’s a morbid fascination that will keep you coming back for more.
So September seriously continues to deliver on it’s promise of album of the year candidates. With Danny Brown’s Old and Drake’s Nothing Was The Same still to come there’s still plenty to be excited over now the Summer’s up. Listen to Kiss Land here.