Toronto’s the Weeknd, aka Abel Tesfaye — whose latest free EP, Thursday, hit the web last night — has earned a place in 2011’s pop music discussion with an intriguing bag of tricks. Thanks to infrequent live appearances and suddenly-appearing releases, he’s maintained an air of mystery. By sampling indie faves like Beach House and Siouxsie & the Banshees, he’s got the Hype Machine-heads taking notice. And he’s got the backing of chart-topping rapper (and fellow Ontarian) Drake for mega mainstream appeal.
Thursday, which boasts a cameo from Drake on “The Zone,” picks up where the Weeknd’s lauded debut mixtape from March, House of Balloons left off — it’s sultry, minimalist R&B held together with syrupy synth swells and Tesfaye’s charmingly unassuming, understated coos.
Among the new songs, “Life of the Party” stands out, with its ragga-fied rhythm evoking Massive Attack’s creep-hop splendor. “The Birds Part 1,” which leaked to YouTube in June, is another choice cut, with its backing track of marching band snare drum and “Dirty Diana” guitar shredding underpinning an urgent, somewhat emo chorus: “Don’t make me make you fall in love / With a n***a like me.”
Snag the nine-song EP for free via the Weeknd’s official site.
Listen: The Weeknd, “The Birds Part 1”