Artist Spotlight courtesy of Makomore
“Please don’t write that I look like I’m about to burst into tears. That’s just my resting face.”
– New York Times interview, 2014
No Shape, Perfume Genius’s fourth album, is out tomorrow, so it’s the perfect time for the artist spotlight that I scheduled roughly a month ago and then virtually forgot about until today. So, unfortunately, this may not contain as much writing as I had hoped, and I’ll be linking to a couple of my favorite interviews instead of spending too much time on background.
Perfume Genius is the musical project of Mike Hadreas, born 1981 in Seattle. His music is sad, generally overflowing with emotion, and frequently inspiring, though not always in the most straightforward way. Mike is someone who didn’t have an easy time growing up, or entering adulthood for that matter. He was the only openly gay student at his high school, and gravitated toward drugs and constant partying as a young adult. In interviews, he understandably stays away from describing the specifics of this time in his life, but I recommend reading the above-linked 2014 NY Times interview for a bit more background and understanding of Mike as a person.
In his mid 20s, Mike decided it was time to make a change. Having taken piano and painting lessons since a young age, but never having taken a serious attempt at creating art, he began writing songs for the first time. These songs, recorded at his mother’s home after returning from rehab, eventually formed his 2010 debut album, Learning.
The other guy in this video is Alan Wyffels, Mike’s musical partner and, starting somewhere around the time this performance was recorded, his boyfriend. Again, I’m going to recommend an interview, this one from last month for the Fader’s sex issue .
Alright, that’s about as much background as I can bear. From here, it’s all music.
In 2012, Mike released Put Your Back N 2 It, another beautiful piano-driven album, this time with, unsurprisingly, more polished production and additional instrumentation:
And a personal favorite of mine:
The “Dark Parts” video always makes me especially emotional, I guess because of my own relationship with my mom, who I’ve gotten a lot closer to in the last few years after some rough times when I was younger. I guess that’s fairly typical, but a personal connection’s a personal connection. But really, I just adore his videos in general, which is why I’m including as many as I can here.
On to 2014:
“No family is safe, when I sashay.”
The third album, Too Bright, is a further departure sonically, with a wider range of instrumentation, a more rock-based overall sound, and a sense of anger often taking the place of all-out sadness.
Songs like “Queen” and “Fool” focus on frustration at the stereotypes dealt with by gay men, embracing flamboyance and femininity as a rebellious act vs. being stuck in the role of the entertaining gay sidekick in someone else’s story. The album as a whole shows an evolution for Mike. While the songs aren’t exactly full of joy, their overall message is one of embracing your entire self when the world would rather keep you in a box. Inspirational, if not in the happiest of ways.
The new album is called No Shape. If you follow Perfume Genius on Twitter, you may have connected that title to the sentiment of one of Mike’s tweets from a couple years ago.
I can’t get through this thing without bringing up Mike’s Twitter. It’s amazing. Even if you don’t love his music, follow him for killer content like this:
Again, the album looks to be bigger and bolder than what’s come before. The lead single, “Slip Away” (the one at the top of the page), is a huge, gorgeous piece of art.
And with that, I don’t have anything left to say (Also I need to get this thing posted already). I’ll leave you with one more track off of Learning. No real comment here, it just strikes me as a hell of a finisher.