The Weeknd’s sole member, Abel Tesfaye, may only be 21, but his debut mixtape House of Balloons made some major waves. Now with a Best New Music (8.5, not quite the stereotyped 8.6) and a shortlisted nomination for the Polaris Prize, the highly acclaimed R&B artist returns. Thursday continues the forward thinking, genre-crossing production of Illangelo and Doc McKinney marrying with the crooning of Tesfaye, who wrangle each track into a slinky, slithering narcotized jam.

While House of Balloons operated on a mood evocative of cleaning up a large house full of post-party debris, Thursday presents itself as a distinctly disturbing romp to the events that lead to an event. Opener ‘Lonely Star’ states its purpose: ‘Baby, I can fuck you right.’ Where Tesfaye used to plaintively wail about how, “You always want me when I’m coming down,” now the focus is getting close (and in to) his object of desire, whether it’s an unnamed everywoman or his muse of weed. The production has fittingly shifted gears to Burial-esque low key and low frequency tendencies, evoking dubstep’s better side on ‘Life Of The Party,’ hints of ‘Ghost Hardware’ on ‘Thursday’ and even more swashes of guitar than either could conjure. ‘Coming Down’ had used clean guitar to great effect as a post-R. Kelly nod to the slow jam, but here the strings command and drive the backing, snarling and gnashing at Abel’s lyrics of lost connections and emotionless pain. “I’ll be making love to you through her, so let me keep my eyes closed/And I won’t see a damn thing/I can’t feel a damn thing/But I’mma touch you right,” croons ‘The Zone’ over a subtonal sine wave bass and swashes of Auto Tuned vibrato. The effect is unsettling, like being immersed in cold gel, but at the same time genuinely filled with the evocative sadness that good delivery and better production can bring out of a performer in his rightful, well, zone.

The implied statement that this tape is dominated by unfettered sadness is a misconception, as ‘The Birds Part 1’ may be the most buoyant thing in the Weeknd catalogue to date, riding a militaristic march and a commanding chorus of, “Don’t make me make you fall in love with a nigga like me.” Part 2 integrates muted horns and a hit of piercing strings to the mix, dialing down the love but amping up the hurt, making a slithering track into one that sounds as bereft as the relationship implied or aborted. The effect is like a more polished version of Love Remains, all vocal histrionics in the right places but never working with the arrangement but against it. Problems with the production are relatively few, as all chords are correct in terms of their place in the scale and the mix is superbly well executed. Tesfaye’s delivery can be too one-key, a problem that led to House of Balloons sometimes dragging on a bit. ‘Rolling Stone,’ for instance, becomes boring by the minute mark in no small part due to an acoustic guitar onstinato and repeated wailings of ‘I GOT YOU’ dominating about half of the song. Here, though, the reason for what should be the highlight of the first half (‘The Zone’) turning into the enfant terrible is solely placed on Weeknd championer and fellow Canadian Drake. I get it, you really really like what this project is doing, you share a nationality, and you are loved in your home nation. But stop it. You suck, Drake. Didn’t Ghostface go over this already this year? Once again, Drake says nothing of worth instead relying on a series of reasons to want to fuck a girl while spitting his bars at near Busta speeds. At least that renders it mercifully short, but it still drags the track on needlessly and proves that Drake should get back into acting.

High praise aside, this mixtape is just that – a mix. The somewhat one-key mood is appropriate in a situational context, but like when Balloons first dropped it seems that more undue praise for being different is in the works. Lavishing The Weeknd with endless compliments for merely sounding like what it is – indie R ‘n B made by a demi-hipster – has been the main reason for the massive attention, as much as the heads ups from other established musicians. This is not by any means a bad release, just another step in the continued journey towards absolutely synthesizing any downtempo style with ‘90s era vocals. Creep ‘n B, if you must call it anything, could be the next chillwave.