Perfume Genius

No Shape

Matador

May 05, 2017 Issue #60 - Father John Misty Bookmark and Share


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Happiness never sounded as haunting as it does on the new Perfume Genius record, No Shape. Everything, including contentment, comes at a cost, and those emotional debts will leave their mark. There are simultaneous moments of pure beauty and pain, as there have been throughout Perfume Genius' work. Only now perhaps the songs don't search for beauty in suffering, but in vitality despite it.

Mike Hadreas began his songwriting career as Perfume Genius after a stint in rehab, following a blurry near-decade of New York City partying. There was not much glamourous about those two first excellent Perfume Genius recordshushed, wounded bedroom confessionals accompanied by little more than his piano playing. That backdrop made his third record, 2014's Two Bright, a breakthrough for many listeners, a statement of sorts. With its lead single, "Queen," Hadreas announced himself as a confrontational, outwardly provocative performer for the first time: "No family is safe when I sashay," served as the album's defining lyric. It was a big, sonically adventurous record made by a gay artist during a liberal presidency in a progressive Pacific Northwest city. Despite all that, any sidewalk at night can be a dangerous place, and Hadreas' new confidence could be seen as both shield and sabre.

His past has a way of informing the hidden spaces of the new songs, which glide effortlessly from R&B to trip-hop, Krautrock to chamber pop. There are big, blown-out moments, where the entire studio and kitchen sink appear to have been recorded, and intimate moments of strummed acoustic guitar. This is a dynamic record that focuses on textures to cover the ground between Hadreas' subtle early recordings and the transgressive avante pop of Two Bright. Three years have passed since that record, and No Shape will be born into vastly different political climate. No Shape might not be political, but it is personal, and perhaps the power of Hadreas' hard-won fortitude can serve as the greatest resistance of all. As he sings on the new record's closing track, "Alan," an ode to his boyfriend of eight years, "You need me, rest easy/I'm here, how weird." (www.perfumegenius.org)

Author rating: 8/10

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Amy
May 5th 2017
3:09pm

FYI: the album is called Too Bright, not Two Bright.