Album Review: Perfume Genius

put your back n 2 it (matador records)

Perfume Genius is the pseudonym for Seattle-based singer songwriter Mike Hadreas. He began composing music on the piano after moving from New York and by 2008, had set up a MySpace page to showcase his work. He was signed to Turnstile Records and released his debut full length album Learning in mid 2010.

Put Your Back N 2 It is a very sombre album. Let's not kid ourselves here - there is nothing jolly about any of these songs and I reckon that the text-spelling title is possibly the most light hearted it gets. I can't imagine that Mike Hadreas would be the life and soul of many parties. With song subjects ranging from overdosing to gay men with body issues, the music and lyrics are deep, intense and explicitly honest, with a truck-load of Hadreas' emotion exploding from every word sung in every song.

The production is very bare - exposing his haunting vocal lines, which I think is bang on. This music is predominantly about the lyrics, which is what contains the substance. Underneath lies elegant sounds, acoustic guitars, pianos, and strings. Take Normal Song for example, the music itself is very laid back consisting of just a guitar and a piano, neither of which are doing anything fancy, so the listener is directed towards the lyrics which are beautifully engaging. Distant percussion is used to great effect in Take Me Home, Normal Song and Floating Spit, which can only add to the already lugubrious mood of the music.

No Tear and 17 are very similar pieces of music, it took me a while before I realised I was listening to the next track. Both contain lyrics which cut deep, especially 17, which is about body issues, as Mike Hadreas explains:

"Almost every gay man I have met has body image issues. They are all tripping! I think it is an easy place for your brain to dump everything. A lot of times you have no idea why you feel so shitty, so you can pick at your face. I named it 17 because of teenagers, who are always tripping and killing themselves. It is basically a gay suicide letter, so...sorry about that."

My favourite song on the album is Hood. It is suggesting that if somebody knew the real you, then they would get up and walk away. Although the subject is again very sombre, the music is the only upbeat piece on the album. I do like a good beat and this is the only track with a sniff of drums kicking in. I must mention the video that accompanies this song was originally removed from YouTube due to its "mature sexual themes of an adult nature". Uh-oh... Rihanna seems to get away with that every week, but that's another blog post for another time...

So to the title track, which was written for Madreas' partner. This song carries a sweet sentiment in that it was sung by Madreas and his partner before he realised the song was about him. Everybody now... "Aaahhhh", isn't that lovely? No? Sick bucket? GET THE SICK BUCKET.

The album is bursting with honesty, honour and integrity. Madreas' minimalistic songs address complex issues that are close to his heart, and explore deep into his inner most emotion. Whilst I would not advise listening to the album whilst preparing for a big night out, there is definitely a time when listening will motivate, and stir up all sorts of feelings inside you - probably ones you never thought were there. I will be honest and say that, for me, the album is not a personal favourite and won't be going on the iPod, but one cannot ignore it's beauty, honesty and serenity.


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