Perfume Genius: Set My Heart On Fire Immediately (Matador) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, September 19th, 2020  

Perfume Genius

Set My Heart On Fire Immediately

Matador

May 15, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Mike Hadreas—under the moniker Perfume Genius—spent the 2010s riding the line between the art pop world and the edges of the mainstream. His 2017 record, No Shape, was at the same time experimental and immediately accessible, even seeing some of Perfume Genius’ music featured in acclaimed films such as Booksmart. Set My Heart On Fire Immediately follows up on that album’s sonic expansions, as Hadreas continues to put his subversive take on new musical passages.

No Shape was a gargantuan record, exploring a myriad of transcendent sounds and styles. Set My Heart On Fire Immediately is similarly eclectic in its stylistic choices. It has moments that revisit the maximalist opulence of No Shape, such as “Your Body Changes Everything.” Meanwhile “Without You” is an unabashedly romantic cut tinged with steel guitar and a swaying Spanish tempo and “Some Dream” builds from a soft ballad to cinematic heights before falling back down once again. 

Yet other tracks are quite minimal. “Moonbend” feels almost fragile with brief shots of cold synths offering the only accompaniment to Hadreas’ voice before orchestral elements and acoustic guitar fill out the song over halfway through. Although this track borders on nebulous, there is still an undeniable beauty to the song. These dreamy tracks often are slow burners but multiple listens reveal greater depth. It constructs a more patient album, but one that rewards the listener for their attention. 

Hadreas’ voice also sounds as expressive and dynamic as ever. He switches between dancing away from his anguish in “On the Floor,” to his immaculate falsetto on “Jason,” to a tormented whisper on “Leave.” His vocals mold to each song seamlessly, as does the production, courtesy of Blake Mills.

Hadreas takes a similarly explorative approach to his lyrics on this album as well. On the opening track, “Whole Life,” he meditates on the mistakes of his past singing, “Half of my whole life is done/Let it drift and wash away/Shadows soften toward some tender light/In slow motion I leave them behind.” He follows with “Describe,” a heavy shoegaze influenced track sees Hadreas in a dark state questioning what peace feels like. He asks “Can you describe them for me?” That conflict between hope and darkness reappears throughout the album, as Hadreas explores the themes of love, memory, and sexuality.

Set My Heart On Fire Immediately may be indulgent, but it is intoxicating in its sprawling approach. It is openly expressive and emotional, as we follow Hadreas through fantastic highs and dark and dissociative lows. Yet, even when the album is at its most ethereal or chaotic Hadreas elevates these tracks and creates a captivating sense of presence. The result is an album that shows why Perfume Genius continues to be an essential voice in our musical landscape. (www.perfumegenius.org)

Author rating: 8.5/10

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Average reader rating: 5/10



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