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Strictly Albums Of The Year: House Of Balloons

Released March 21st 2011 by XO Records.

Chart Performance: House Of Balloons was originally released as a mixtape and as such didn’t chart.

What The Critics Said: “These weird, morning-after tales of lust, hurt, and over-indulgence are matched by this incredibly lush, downcast music. It’s hard to think of a record since probably the xx’s debut that so fully embodies such a specific nocturnal quality.” Pitchfork Media

2011 was the year that R’n’B retook its rightful place as the most forward thinking and innovative genre in all of music. After all, it had been a rough few years as the glory days of Timbaland and Missy Elliot felt like a distant memory, and despite The-Dream’s best efforts the genre had lapsed into a kind of self-important contentedness and complacency. How To Dress well had skirted on the edge of a breakthrough in 2010, and Frank Ocean and The Weeknd were ready and waiting to turn pop in its head in 2011.

The Weeknd arrived fully formed, and House Of Balloons sounded like the future. Murky, dark, thick and seductively luscious, HOB captured a dirtiness that the R’n’B of Usher had been lacking. This was sordid, knowingly shameful, and refreshingly earthy, in short, this is what real life fucking sounded like. Dark clubs, long walks home and the heavy weight of guilty that burdens the self-ashamed cheat. “Wicked Games” was a revelation; a dark sex jam, that saw the teary eye cheat baring his soul and exhuming his frustration by wantonly giving into his carnal urges, unleashing his conflicting conflict on his pliable lover (I’m willing to be it beats a stress ball).

Better, yet was the sound, House Of Balloons felt like one lumpen amorphous mass, a seething sexual entity; it demanded to be heard in full, from start to finish. As good as “High For This” or “Coming Down” sounded they only work in the context of a molten enveloping sound. A sense of dislocation ensues as you give your self over to the House Of Ballons; you’ve never quite sure whether you’re being dragged down or lunging in.  Are you drowning deeper in guilt or achieving glorious release?

The whole spectrum of love confused for lust is expressed, a mix of depressed laments, tired apathy, intense yearning, and an inescapable carnal desire; the emotional compulsion are often conflicting, and at times unsettling (The Weeknd veers into misogynistic territory on “The Party & The After Party”), but the arrangements are so deliciously insalubrious and utterly irresistible, you melt, not in the face of The Weeknd’s vocal but into his luscious compositions. David Hayter




Author: david

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