Image courtesy of Amazon.co.uk.
Nobody loves an album of gloomy, haunting music about abuse, addiction and domestic turmoil more than this particular reviewer. You can imagine, therefore, my joy at discovering the debut album Learning by Mike Hadreas, 26, from Seattle who performs under the name Perfume Genius. Evoking similarities to singer-songwriters such as Antony and the Johnsons and Cat Power, Perfume Genius has written a heartbreaking yet wondrous record.
The opening lyric on the title track and album opener, ”˜Learning”™, sets the ominous tone: ”˜No one will answer your prayers, until you take off that dress”™. The lyrics throughout are sinister tales of a damaged upbringing but are delivered with a fragility and innocence that is both endearing and captivating to the listener. Instrumentation is kept minimal with plonky-piano and breathy vocals and the occasional synthesizer. This creates an intimate listen, much in the same vein as The xx. When other elements come into play, such as the distorted vocal noises at the end of ”˜Perry”™, they are used to great effect, bringing a beautifully chaotic ending to a song about a broken and abusive relationship.
The conflict between the dark subject matter and the light, strangely ethereal music is what gives the album a life span far greater than most releases. The arrangements on songs such as ”˜Mr Peterson”™ are simple, yet when you listen to the lyrics, their bluntness is chilling. ”˜He made me a tape of Joy Division / He told me there was a part of him missing / When I was sixteen / He jumped off a building”™.
Learning, like the best albums, is not only beautiful but has a depth which will resonate for years with its listeners. It”™s what lies underneath the veil of black – the fragmented world of Perfume Genius – which makes this album truly outstanding.