KISS LAND, UNIVERSAL MUSIC CANADA
Kiss Land is disappointing, but not terribly so. As Abel Tesfaye’s first full-length release after his critically acclaimed trilogy of mixtapes released in 2011, the album is certainly less adventurous and experimental than his previous works. Tesfaye still has a great ear for melody and his voice is as stellar as always. However, one of the more problematic elements of the Weeknd’s oeuvre has been his misogynistic lyrics, such as in “The Morning” or “Wicked Games,” off of House of Balloons. This is less of an issue as the accompanying music is at least engaging enough to distract from Tesfaye’s lyrical hang-ups.
Kiss Land sounds very polished and at times frustratingly slow. Tesfaye has a knack for capturing a mood and building the sonic architecture of the song around it. That being said, tracks like “Professional” and “Tears in the Rain” seem to drag and, in the case, of the former track, particularly highlight the Weeknd’s lyrical antagonism towards the opposite sex. The album is not without its moments of brilliance, though: “Belong to the World” rides a glitchy groove, giving way to a theatrical chorus complemented by strings and one of Tesfaye’s best vocal hooks to date. The album’s title track is a warped masterpiece, vividly and uncompromisingly detailing Tesfaye’s on-tour debauchery and his attitude towards the women he has met on the road. The track is dark in the seediest of ways – sampled screams in the first half of the song add to the atmosphere of brooding, empty hedonism.
Kiss Land marks a misstep in Tesfaye’s promising career, but one that he can likely recover from. One can only hope that a talent this great can reclaim the ambitious drive that made House of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes of Silence so consistently enjoyable.
By James Olson