The Weeknd

Abel Tesfaye, a.k.a. the Weeknd, performs at the Coachella Music and Arts Festival in Indio in April. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

With less than a week until the release next Tuesday of his major-label debut, the Canadian R&B singer known as the Weeknd is giving listeners a preview of some of his new material.

"Trilogy" will primarily collect songs from a series of free albums the Weeknd (born Abel Tesfaye) originally issued online in 2011. But it's also to contain three previously unreleased tracks, two of which -- "Twenty Eight" and "Valerie" -- are now available to stream in radio-rip form on a website overseen by the Weeknd's XO crew. The video of the set's lead single, "Wicked Games," has been posted online (warning: explicit lyrics).

Both tunes feel slightly lighter in tone than the unremittingly gloomy sounds we heard on "House of Balloons," "Thursday" and "Echoes of Silence," the result perhaps of Tesfaye's increasing success over the last 12 months. In addition to earning the admiration of countless music bloggers, he's also remixed Lady Gaga, played Coachella and opened a string of amphitheater shows for Florence + the Machine. In August a sample of his song "The Birds (Part 1)" even made it onto 2 Chainz's "Based on a T.R.U. Story."

That's not to say that the Weeknd has all of a sudden gone Trey Songz. "This house is not a home to you," Tesfaye sings with characteristic detachment at the top of "Twenty Eight." "But you decide to go ahead and lay down." From there the track's delicate synth-soul arrangement builds to a climax as steely as it is sensual.

Tesfaye's blood runs similarly cold in the spacey "Valerie," which begins with what sounds like someone choking. But soon the singer -- who's set to perform at Power 106 FM's Cali Christmas on Dec. 14 at the Gibson Amphitheatre -- punctures the predatory vibe with a sliver of self-reflection: "I know you can see through my lies." It's your call if he's apologizing or boasting.

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