Abel Tesfaye, more commonly known by his stage name The Weeknd, has returned with another much anticipated mix tape. Echoes of Silence follows the popularity of House of Balloons and Thursday—all of which were released in the past year—and is the last instalment in this Canadian artists’ trilogy of mix tapes.
Impressively, Tesfaye delivers for the third time in a row, a fact highlighted by his Internet popularity with some songs at almost half a million hits on YouTube. While the Toronto-based singer’s talent has been recognized by the likes of fellow Torontonian rapper Drake, Tesfaye still remains relatively underground to the mainstream music industry.
Opening with an emotionally charged cover of Michael Jackson’s “Dirty Diana”, titled “D.D.” on The Weeknd’s version, the R&B singer does a surprisingly good job on his spin of the suspicious, almost-metal sex jam. Standout tracks include “Montreal” and “The Fall”, where Tesfaye is vengeful in his lyrics, but his voice remains smooth and hypnotic. This is exactly what sets Tesfaye apart from his hip-hop contemporaries. He may not be the best singer, but his emotion is raw and almost too real. The tear-stained and slow synths mixed with Tesfaye’s quiet and menacing voice takes its listeners on a ride where a crash is all too possible.
Exploring topics like letting go and hurt, which were introduced in the first two mix tapes Echoes of Silence offers a different hip-hop experience and a refreshing sound.
UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA student and independent hip-hop artist Alex Silas delivers honest and personal tracks with varying quality throughout his first solo effort.
At times the E.P. feels simplistic, while at others both the diversity of Silas’ musical tastes and his emotions are evident, bringing his music to life. Tracks are given dimension by Silas’ inclusion of samples from other sounds and artists, such as the late blues singer Amy Winehouse on the song “No Good”.
Many of the tracks are distinctly Canadian, written in the context of problems and situations facing Canadian adults.
Silas also describes another reality that listeners rarely get to hear. Instead of singing of money and the glamourous side of the hip-hop world, Silas’ work portrays the life of a struggling artist. This notion is embodied in the track “Headphones”, where Silas explains the influence music has had on his life and the importance it plays on moving him forward.
Head In The Sand Records
SOME FOLK MUSIC is just joke music. After picking up the latest album from Canadian country-folk singer, Demetra Penner, I was worried the recording would sound too similar to what’s already on the market and use a banjo way too much. Penner’s Lone Migration was anything but the usual folk sounds that adorn such records.
Penner’s vocal aesthetic reminds the listener of another famous folk singer, Fiest, infused with Lana Del Rey and Zooey Deschanel, but Penner uses arrangements that are more haunting and desolate. Her lyrics speak of a yearning and quiet sadness, which is all too appropriate considering the album’s title. Along with the usual folk genre instruments, Penner incorporated the autoharp, ukulele, and organ into her songs.
With track titles such as “Hunter & Gatherer”, “Lone Migration”, and “Arctic & Sea”, themes of wandering and being lost are sprinkled in with songs about love and letting go. Standout songs include the opening track “Emergency Exit”, a short, two-minute prelude that adequately portrays what’s to come, and “Hey Stranger”, a more uplifting ode about meeting and loving a stranger.
All in all, Lone Migration is the type of album you can only hope to discover. The promise of hearing Penner’s bone-chilling and sweet voice should be enough for you to pick up a copy.
PREVIOUS SWOLLEN MEMBERS vocalist and rap mainstay Moka Only decided to collaborate with fellow West Coast artist Evil Ebenezer on ZZBRA: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. The title, while interesting, is misleading; it insinuates its accompaniment to a movie. The myth behind the album is that a major film’s production halted because of budget issues and all that remained was its soundtrack.
The unusual premise for the album is the only intriguing aspect of this rap collaboration. The beats and sounds used in the album are either too generic or just plain weird. Not to mention the jungle theme featured on the album will give you a headache by the third song.
While many hip-hop partnerships create new sounds and a much loved album, don’t expect the same ZZBRA. The lyrics aren’t spectacular. The only tracks worth mentioning are the piano-heavy “Number One” and “Running Back”, the only song that is sung instead of rapped. “Number One” shows artistic talent with its use of an upbeat melody contrasted with darker lyrics.
The only thing Moka Only and Evil Ebenezer should get credit for is the effort they put into the songs. They tried to be original and step out of the rap clichés that surround similar artists, but it didn’t work. The music should always come first—not the concept.