Posts Tagged ‘No Shape’

Perfume Genius performs songs from the album No Shape at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C.

Mike Hadreas has always had a gift for capturing the sound of escape. His early songs explore people who are running from something—abuse, stigma, addiction, themselves. But over the last two Perfume Genius albums, there’s been a gradual but powerful reclamation of self that culminates in “Slip Away,” the exquisite single from “No Shape”. 

The title may suggest that this is another Perfume Genius song about flight—in some ways it is. Hadreas is breaking free from whatever demons are at his back. But this time, he’s not looking back over his shoulder—“If you never see them coming, then you never have to hide.” There’s a faith that everything will turn out alright if you have the right person by your side. Fittingly, the song is the most euphoric Perfume Genius has ever sounded. It’s a song that shows that running towards something is always better than running away.

Perfume Genius No Shape

From the quiet bedroom recordings on his debut Learning to the subtle ballads on Put Your Back N2 It  to the pop swagger on Too Bright , the music Mike Hadreas creates as Perfume Genius has gotten bigger and bolder with every album. For his fourth album, No Shape, Hadreas continues his impressive streak with another record that retains his unique voice while incorporating new sounds and ambitions.

Perfume Genius has always explored the queer experience, especially the traumas on the path to embracing one’s identity. Even at its most exuberant, the music battles with a darker tension. The stellar single “Queen” from Too Bright, for example, projects a powerful confidence musically, but the song, according to Perfume Genius’s camp, is about “gay panic.” On No Shape, that tension is still present, but more subdued, subordinated by the extraordinary strength of love.

No Shape feels more celebratory than any Perfume Genius record to date; that celebration often runs deliciously wild. Too Bright also swung for the fences, but its immaculately constructed pop songs always felt well under control. Both albums open with gentle piano, but No Shape opener “Otherside” can hardly contain itself. It explodes into glitter and euphoria after a minute, and then leads into the triumphant lead single “Slip Away.”

“Slip Away” just might be Perfume Genius’s finest song to date. The conflict between preserving your identity and survival, at the heart of so much of Perfume Genius’s work, is there. “They’ll never break the shape we take”—Hadreas is singing from the battlements, but there’s no doubt he’ll make it through to the morning. Even if the enemy is scaling the walls, this music remains triumphant.

Nothing else on No Shape matches the transcendence of “Slip Away”. That kind of brazen euphoria is anomalous on the album and Perfume Genius’s career in general. Much of the middle of the album follows slower, gentle ballads; the songs resemble Put Your Back N 2 It in tempo and Too Bright in production value, but they follow a logic entirely their own. Hadreas follows his intuition, which leads him to peculiar rhythms and sudden bursts of sound that continually surprise. From the early burst of sound on “Otherside” to the hypnotic forward march of “Valley” (another album standout), No Shape surprises you with a constant intimacy punctuated by thwarted expectations.

All the music is characterized by a baroque sense of melodrama, but if No Shape has one defining quality, from “No Shape” to more delicate tracks like “Every Night,” it’s confidence. Hadreas is in complete control of his extensive gifts, trusting his instincts to guide to someplace at once comforting and foreign. He achieves both on nearly every track. Occasionally, No Shape can come off as somewhat saccharine, twee pushed past its melting point. “Just Like Love” is one such example, though it undoubtedly suffers from coming immediately after “Slip Away,” a tough act to follow. The danger of leading with such an incredible track is always that everything else seems smaller.

More often than not, however, this album brings you into its world and convinces you that love really is redemptive, that it can hold back the hounds at the gate. Hadreas, one imagines, knows this better than most. While the music of Perfume Genius has always had been richly authentic, it’s especially so in No Shape. Many of these songs are inspired in part by Alan Wyffels, Hadreas’s boyfriend, and musical collaborator for the past eight years. The last song on the album is named for Alan; it immerses you like a cloud, then lifts you up with it as Hadreas howls, “Rest easy, I’m here. How weird!” Like Perfume Genius, love is many things, weird in so many wonderful ways.

thanks Prettymuchamazing

Since releasing his debut album Learning under the name Perfume Genius in 2010, Mike Hadreas and his music have both steadily grown bolder, more daring, more defiant. Over the course of four full-length albums his songs have evolved from intimate piano pieces to grandly orchestrated, stirring pop anthems that often rage against both his inner demons and the social and political injustices Hadreas sees in the world.

Hadreas‘ latest work, “No Shape”, is the singer’s most fearless album to date and perhaps his most personal. To mark its release today (on Matador Records) and to explore its inspirations, Mike Hadreas shares some of the stories behind its creation. He opened up about his battle with Crohn’s disease, gender identity and his conflicted views of religion. He also spoke openly, and frequently, about his deep love for his boyfriend, Alan Wyffels, as well as his lingering doubts and existential dread over growing older while remaining relevant as an artist. You can read Hadreas’ thoughts and stories, Perfume Genius

“When we recorded this song we had the studio set up like a makeshift church. We arranged lines of chairs like pews and had each person sing seated, facing a microphone at the front of the room. Everyone in the studio sang, including some friends of the engineer that were nearby.

“Hymns have always sounded like sung spells to me. I never felt included in the magic of the God songs I heard growing up — I knew I was going to hell before anyone ever told me that I was. People found comfort in this all-knowing source, but I felt frightened and found out. I developed some weird and very dramatic complexes. It took me a long time to not think of the universe as a judgmental debit-credit system. I haven’t completely shaken it, but I no longer think that I am overdrawn with God. Grace is not something you earn, its always there. I find this idea a lot more fun. I guess this song is a collection of little prayers that are helpful to me.”

Slip Away

“My favorite movie is Dogfight, with River Phoenix and Lili Taylor. The ending is kind of bittersweet, but so real and moving and complicated. I tried to see if I could make something similar. It’s about a love that other people tell you is devious or not natural being very pure and true, physical or otherwise. When I was doing press for my last album, everybody kept asking me why I was writing about all this, when gay people can get married and it’s not illegal to suck d*** in Wyoming or wherever — but there are still a lot of really horrible things going on right now. So there’s a joy to this song, but it’s a protest too.”

Just Like Love

“I was scared of the devil starting around age nine. Before that, I was gathering every family member in the living room, slipping a shirt over my robe so the bottom hung like a skirt and performing Gloria Estefan songs with feverish intensity. I was in the spirit. Maybe I could see my republican senator grandma squinting a little sideways at me, but I was in the spirit. I thought I would grow up to be a girl, but was not bothered that I was a boy. I knew that maybe it was strange to want a Barbie, but I wanted a Barbie and that felt very natural and counteracted whatever intangible discomfort I was sensing from family or the world that didn’t have its claws in me yet.

“I saw this Facebook video of a boy, probably around seven, wearing a dress he had fashioned from a blanket, sashaying through his house while his mother applauded and cheered him on. He was so proud. It was such a beautiful thing, but bittersweet because I knew his spirit would change soon, that he’d become self-aware and ashamed, at some level. The song is about how divine he is, then and always — that he was born perfect. I don’t care how cheesy that is. I just wanted a song that celebrated him and told him to hold on for a while, because we will all be waiting for him when he moves to the city. To tap into the joyous and free part of me that was just dancing and wondering what my boobs were gonna be like.”

Go Ahead

“I’m hyping myself up, telling everyone that they can try and come for me, but I’m already gone — that they can pray for me, but I’m already with God. But never by raising my voice. It feels infinitely cooler to be so casual about it. This is one of my favorite songs.”

Valley

“About a year after rehab, I thought I saw a woman — I am not sure it was her — on the street who I had become close with in treatment, but we lost touch. She was pacing around near the payphone all f***** up. I wanted to write a song saying that I understand how she would go back to using. It is what makes the most sense. Being sober is living against your instincts, all the time. It’s not any better morally than being f***** up. I don’t think addicts should be pitied or thought of as lost. Drinking and doing drugs was the only thing that gave me a feeling of peace, of connection and what felt like grace. They saved my life for a while, before they messed me up. I am not against the stuff itself, just the realness it kept me from.”

Wreath

“I am not a big fan of my body and would like to leave it. Not die, but retain all my thoughts and be free of my body. I have Crohn’s disease, which has caused me to not trust my insides. I feel betrayed by it. I am getting older, and that feels like a betrayal on the outside as well. I do not feel strongly connected to being a man or a woman, which was and still can be confusing. It also doesn’t feel attractive. I feel like it would be more attractive or at least easier to comprehend if I picked a side.

“I wrote this song and all the rest without words. I focused on the melody, the structure of it. I made sure it had a chorus and bridge — all things I have never done before because they felt like work. I really felt inspired by the work; it still felt instinctual and cathartic, but ‘adult, like I was taking charge. I sometimes felt like I lucked in to music, that I was an impostor. I am always scared when I sit down to write that nothing will come out. So it was fun to attempt capital ‘M’ Music.”

Every Night

“Sometimes I feel energy — or think I feel energy — whose true shape will not reveal itself. Or that it’s something I am not supposed to know. It’s very dramatic; ghosts, magic, other dimensions, et cetera. Sometimes it’s a dread that feels very real and alive, like its floating near me, or something beyond good or bad that is almost shaping itself but never fully forms. I am not really certain how to explain it, but this song is about asking to be shown. I prefer there to be an alien in the house, and would like to kick it with the alien.”

Choir

“For all this God stuff I have been talking about, there is an equal amount of existential dread. Depends on the day. I also like digging in to it, dramatizing it — I feel like a warlock. As much as ‘Every Night’ is asking to be shown something mystical and intangible, this song is kind of like being shown and realizing that there is nothing there, or that it’s evil and stifling.”

Die 4 You

“This is a love song with a lot of breath-control fetish language, to communicate a willingness to really give yourself to someone completely. I like that the lyrics can also be taken many different ways.”

Sides

“Being tied up in my own thoughts can lead to the neglect of everything real around me. I don’t imagine its very fun sometimes for Alan. I wrote this song as him singing to me, asking me to wake up and look around and to truly be with him. [Weyes Blood’s] Natalie [Mering] wrote the other side to the story, her lyrics and melody. [Producer] Blake [Mills] wrote the music at the end as well. It was really a collaboration between the three of us.”

Braid

“This is a love song as well. Alan and I truly know each other. At least, more than our parents or anyone else in our lives has ever known us. It’s a powerful thing and I wanted to honor it, that I know everything, that you know everything, and its okay. Sort of the opposite of my song ‘Hood.'”

Run Through Me

“Originally, I wanted to write a song about how I am attracted to toxic forms of masculinity. As much as I am mentally opposed to those archetypes, they really do it for me. I wanted to talk about that disconnect, but the song ended up more like a prolonged fantasy that took a dark turn. I am not sure why I am preoccupied with this idea of being annihilated by someone else spiritually and physically, but it certainly comes up a lot. It is kind of an embarrassing song, thematically. But I think that is kind of bodacious. There is also some power in it, because even though the lyrics might paint the picture of me as submissive, it’s sung with strength and power, like I am the director of the whole thing.”

Alan

“Also one of my favorite songs that I somehow have the least to say about, maybe because I said it already in the song I guess.”

perfume genius no shape

On May 5th, Mike Hadreas’ aka Perfume Genius returns with a new album called “No Shape”. The album is Hadreas’ first since Too Bright in 2014. The album’s announcement was accompanied by the release of a music video for the first single, “Slip Away”.

Mike Hadreas’ said of his new album:

I pay my rent. I’m approaching health. The things that are bothering me personally now are less clear, more confusing. I don’t think I really figured them out with these songs. There’s something freeing about how I don’t have it figured out. Unpacking little morsels, magnifying my discomfort, wading through buried harm, laughing at or digging in to the embarrassing drama of it all. I may never come out the other side but it’s invigorating to try and hopefully, ultimately helpful. I think a lot of them are about trying to be happy in the face of whatever bullshit I created for myself or how horrible everything and everyone is.