Enveloped in darkness
By Mark Jenkins
Friday, Mar. 30, 2012
For his second album as Perfume Genius, Seattle singer-songwriter Mike Hadreas has devised a cleaner, more complex sound. Yet "Put Your Back N 2 It" doesn't sound like the work of a musician who's feeling more expansive. Instead, the album spins a lusher cocoon for him to brood within.
That's understandable, since Hadreas doesn't sing about the sort of stuff that is usually celebrated in public. His songs, based on family history and personal experience, address child molestation, drug abuse and the morbid appeal of suicide and pornography. His idea of an upbeat refrain is "he'll never break you baby," the vow at the center of "Dark Parts," which has some of the album's most energetic passages.
Mostly keyed to piano and voice, these songs are often stark. They sometimes suggest gospel music, albeit without that style's affirmation. This time around, Hadreas and his collaborators (including boyfriend Alan Wyffels) add percussion, strings, horns, guitar and electronics. Such mournful tunes as "Normal Song" and "Take Me Home" suggest that Hadreas could write crying-in-your-beer numbers for Nashville cats. But Perfume Genius rarely ventures anywhere as mundane as the corner bar. Multilayered songs such as "Floating Spit" are hauntingly lovely and utterly distinctive.