Perfume Genius – No Shape (Matador)


In addition to adding his voice to Aldous Harding’s new album, Mike Hadreas, aka Perfume Genius, has just released his latest studio record. And, like Harding, he and producer Blake Mills offer up a raft of sonic surprises.

Two and a half years after his previous album, Too Bright, here comes Perfume Genius with, what is his most intimate and aurally exciting album to date.

Over the course of his career, Hadreas has written about his struggles growing up as a gay man in Washington State, about his relationships with lovers and the world around him.

Now, it seems, he has come to terms with who he is and vice-versa…the world around him seems more accepting.

This has allowed him to become more confident and adventurous with his music. Opening track Otherside is a prime example. It begins as a rather traditional, quiet ballad….just voice and piano…but then explodes into a glorious firestorm of sound, essentially telling the listener that they should be ready for anything.

That sense of daring, of throwing unexpected musical curveballs permeates the entire record.

I’m guessing that much of this is producer Blake Mills’ doing…he gets songwriting credit on several tracks and plays a host of instruments.

That’s not to take anything away from Hadreas. His lyrics are personal, yet universal enough that anyone can find some common ground. His vocals, especially when he reaches to falsetto, are extremely moving, reminding one of Prince on songs like Go Ahead and Braid.

Together Hadreas and Mills establish an atmosphere on ethereal songs such as Every Night and Choir that seem to exist in a middle ground between waking and dreaming.

One other voice shows up on the record…Natalie Mering, aka Weyes Blood, plays Cher to Hadreas’ Sonny on Sides, with each artist singing and writing their own verse, resulting in a song that digs deep into an imaginary relationship, one in which Hadreas sings about wanting to be let in while Mering responds, “If it ain’t easy to love me, cut the cord and set me free”.

No Shape is an album based on honesty, intimacy and the need to understand the human experience. It does this with music that is otherworldly and unexpected.

Marty Duda

Check out the 13th Floor interview with Perfume Genius here