Perfume Genius, the project of Seattle's pianist and singer-songwriter Mike Hadreas,
surfaced with the
lo-fi piano-based folk tales of the mini-album Learning (2010), especially
Hadreas suddenly endorsed lush arrangements on
Put Your Back N 2 It (Matador, 2012) for songs such as
the otherworldly dilated AWOL Marine (a song crushed under the sense of
imminent apocalypse that it emanates)
but his forte remained the way he told his brutal, stirring chronicles of
ordinary aberration such as
the spare, slow, delicate 17,
the harrowing Hood,
the utterly dejected, crying All Waters.
It was actually the absence of music that enhanced the drama.
The very fact of not belonging to any genre or style (just a voice and a piano
mourning, muttering, agonizing) coined a new genre.
Mike Hadreas went pop in rather oblique way on Too Bright (Matador, 2014), co-produced by Adrian Utley of Portishead.
The songs are heavily arranged and sung in an almost operatic (if pained) tone.
David Bowie's specter stands behind the
martial anthem Queen.
Luckily, the constructs are often way more intriguing.
It takes forever for the suspenseful Fool to rise up, but the ending
is his most solemn melody yet.
No Good is a mournful piano elegy amid anthemic strings until a fit
of violent strumming turns it into a transcendental hymn.
My Body is a psychological shocker: a pulsating
psychodrama of foreboding bass lines a` la Suicide derailed by ghostly voices.
Suicide's neurosis is plagiarized even more openly in the epileptic Grid
that weds it to screaming children voices and panzer-grade boogie propulsion.
Longpig moves further in the rhythmic direction unleashing
a vortex of manic electronic beats.
On the other hand, the delicate chamber lied Don't Let Them In
the whispered dirge I'm a Mother (that seems to be taken from
Angelo Badalamenti's soundtrack Blue Velvet) and the
nostalgically waltzing closer All Along
seem to belong to another album, the album of a vulnerable singer-songwriter.
Hadreas reinvented himself as a stylistic wizard.
No Shape (Matador, 2017), produced by Blake Mills,
adopted a louder and dumber pop sound, best (worst?) displayed in
the bombastic single Slip Away.
The album is dominated by
aggressive and over-produced power-pop
numbers such as Wreath.
Hadreas sinks to a new low with the
languid, moronic, neosoul ballads Go Ahead and
Die 4 You (the latter rescued by trip-hop beats and slow, morbid,
The one melody that soars, Just Like Love, evokes the girl-groups of the 1960s, and would have been a very minor song for any of those (very minor)
The ballet The Sun Still Burns Here (2019) was a collaboration with
choreographer Kate Wallich.
In 2019 he released two singles: the nine-minute Eye In The Wall, possibly his masterpiece, weaving a quasi-liturgical chant around frenzied syncopated drumming and reverbed organ effects, with a jazz-psychedelic coda worthy of Peter Green's End of the Game that hides a fractured anthem; and Pop Song, a more conventional dance ballad taken from the ballet The Sun Still Burns Here.
His chamber pop exhibited a split personality on
Set My Heart on Fire Immediately (2020), where
extravagant arrangements coexisted with subdued songs.
The liturgical fervor over a neoclassical waltz of Whole Life coexists
the Pet Shop Boys-esque synth-pop romantic melodrama Your Body Changes Everything.
Some songs are trivial dance ditties like On the Floor and some are pure distilled atmosphere like Leave.
The spare otherworldly chant Just a Touch is the other side of the pulsing feverish neurotic Nothing at All.
The sleepy lullabye One More Try, which sounds like the Everly Brothers produced by Burt Bacharach, meets
the distorted guitar and pounding piano of Some Dream, which sounds like
a lost Warren Zevon rant
(before turning into an anguished lament).
The melodic peak is the
martial and catchy Jason (with baroque harpsichord and soaring strings).
Towering over everything else is the shoegazing single Describe, propelled by an anthemic Neil Young-ian hard-rock guitar riff coupled with folkish jamming and an angelic melody.
Alas, there is also quite a bit of filler.
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