This is slightly uncharacteristic for this blog, but I felt like writing about Perfume Genius without it being an album review or rating his music. His debut record back in 2009 was really good and certain parts of Learning I truly found discomforting. But, the album was stuck with a lo-fi sound that kept Mike Hadreas’ vocals in the background and proved to be too distant during most of the album.
This year he put out a follow up LP, Put Your Back N 2 It and everything that was off about Learning ended up being worked out on this release. Hadreas pushes his vocals more towards the front and the instrumentation is more than just some piano. And his songwriting is near perfect on several tracks. He’s aware when to end a song and not let it drag on for long, sometimes cutting them short before the three minute mark.
“Hood” goes on exactly two minutes and as the single for Put Your Back N 2 It, it was the first thing I heard from the album. The song has a very typical structure but with the lyrics and vocals are some of the most moving things I’ve heard in a song in quite awhile. Matthew Perpetua, really put this song into better perspective than I can with this article.
While I really did enjoy the album quite a bit on first listen, I didn’t really get it until I read an article on the record on Matador’s site with Hadreas discussing each song on Put Your Back N 2 It. Everything from prostitution (“Take Me Home”) to porn in a basement (“AWOL Marine”) to gay sex (“Put Your Back N 2 It”) to depression (“No Tear”) and suicide (“17”) are mentioned in these songs, and knowing that made for a much deeper and oddly personal listening experience.
While the music really did make a serious impression with me, what really gave this album so much life were the lyrics. While I’m going to love whatever music I feel like, there’s always been something about gay artists that have moved me more than most others. I could sit here and say that an artist being gay or me being gay isn’t important and doesn’t really matter, but art is always better if you can relate to it.
As I continued to listen to the album for several weeks and found it to be quite fantastic, I was never really emotionally stuck by anything on it until I saw La Blogotheque’s A Take Away Show there’s three songs in the set and “Dark Parts” really hits me hard halfway through when it’s just his voice and piano. But “Normal Song” left me in tears.
Besides the awkward “Put Your Back N 2 It”, “17” might one of the most effective songs on the albums as far as lyrics go. It’s all very sparse, but what he does sing is extemely effective. There’s very image driven lyrics (“I am frozen lake”) that get vulgar (“cover it with seamen”) and the ending of the track is quite effective as well (“I am done, I am done with this”), and once again the song is almost too much for me to listen to at certain times.
This album has been one of the best things I’ve heard so far this year, and this post still doesn’t do it justice, but some records need to be looked in from this standpoint. There’s plenty more I could say about it, but I feel like if I discussed Put Your Back N 2 It anymore than I already have, I’ll end up destroying the very personal perspective that I have of the album. And rating would also rid this album of it’s magic.