Perfume Genius

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Learning (2010), 6.5/10
Put Your Back N 2 It (2012), 7/10
Too Bright (2014), 7/10
No Shape (2017), 5/10

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 Mr Petersen.

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, Sade-esque sensuality). 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) groups.

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