Mike Hadreas (aka Perfume Genius) has the ability to make homophobes see red - and much of the online comment that has been generated about this young man is driven by consummate homophobia - but it is many a year since I have been as excited about a new album as I am by Put Your Back N 2 It.
This is a staggeringly beautiful and intimate collection of unashamedly mournful and sense-awakening songs by an astonishingly talented artist. That he achieves this without also coming across as being nauseatingly self-indulgent only serves to attest to the true brilliance of this young man.
Update: Almost ten months later and this album has continued to soar in my estimation and maintain its place as a recurrent favourite in my playlists. Forgive me for gushing, but Mike Hadreas really does have a most breathtaking talent.
Mike Hadreas' 2010 debut was a singular affair. Music so fragile that the wind might have blown straight through it. I was enchanted then and remain under a dark spell with his second showing : 'Put Your Back N 2 It'. Perhaps it's the ephemeral melodies; perhaps the lyrical ambiguity; maybe the uncommon otherworldliness of his plaintive voice; probably all three but it moves me.
The twelve songs in this new collection find Mr Hadreas as mournful as ever. This is not an album to listen to if you happen to be a tad down in the dumps but in its more tender moments ('Dirge', for example, belies its title and delivers an incredibly moving vocal performance) it is strangely uplifting.
Rhythm plays a greater part in this material than previously. The occasional deployment of percussion gives the album a more solidly grounded presence. The bluesy 'Take Me Home' and deeply lugubrious 'Floating Spit' are given an almost stately presence by their reverberating beats (the latter is further enhanced by its haunting vocal harmonies) but there can be little doubt that our host is at his best when digging deep into the darker corners of his soul. The sublimely sepulchral atmosphere of 'All Waters' and the simple folksy joys of final track 'Sister Song' will play havoc with your heartstrings if you let them.
Beauty has many faces. Perfume Genius understands the elusive power of melancholy.
A friend of mine recently supported Mike Hadreas (Perfume Genius) at a gig in Nottingham and said his stage presence was shy and tentative yet somehow ineffably captivating. I wasn't suprised having listened to his 2010 debut learning which left me with pretty much the same impression of a delicate flower composing harrowing confessionals, that were too intimate and emotive to ignore.
His sophomore album Put Your Back N 2 IT is equally beguiling and easily more sonically pleasing. The beautiful melodies are still there but he's obviously improved the fidelity losing the reverb and introducing drums and electronic synth which are used to brilliant effect, especially on single Hood. The song is initially reminiscent of Cat Stevens Tea For The Tillerman with the terse song lenth and Hadreas's voice syncopating between spartan piano chords. But it takes a more intense turn halfway in, with drum builds and cymbal crashes accompanying the melody giving the song more power and resonance.
Take Me Home is another song that benefits from the extra instrumentation on display here, played in what i think is waltz time with the drums and effects wonderfully supporting Hadreas's voice and piano, providing some much needed levity to an otherwise sombre song about prostitution. Almost every song on this album sounds gorgeous. Whether they feel elegiac or optimistic, Perfume's beautiful voice and lovely piano paired with the new instrumentation are a perfect combination.
The only criticism (granted it's a minor one) is the short length of the songs on the record. Most come in at about 2 and a half minutes and they all make an impression, but perhaps fall short of being truely indelible because of how fleeting they sometimes feel. Almost like a beautiful robin that has somehow found it's way into your bedroom but flies out again just as your about to get close to it. I think Perfume probably intended them to feel that way, having our undivided attention for a few chilling moments whilst leaving the listener wanting to hear more of his story the next time round. Nevertheless, it's a special album that's sure to please existing fans and is likely to win him new ones too.
The songs end up too soon. With the longest one lasting shortly over 3:15, at each listening, I am left wanting more. Which is a good sign! This album is full of nuggets that one can treasure at will. Highly enjoyable.
A superb second album from Perfume Genius, in my opinion even better than the first one. Haunting songs which are fairly lo-fi production-wise but a terrific sound and well worth listening to. Recommended.