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Perfume Genius: Put Your Back N 2 It

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Against muted drone, a distant, yet stunningly clear piano melody begins to take form. A voice joins, offering a soft, almost incoherent vocal. As the piano complicates, the background drone intensifies, until it envelops the precarious, tragic beauty that is “AWOL Marine” almost as quickly as it began.

Upon hearing the first melancholy notes of Perfume Genius’ fantastic sophomore LP, Put Your Back N 2 It, I was immediately arrested by its unmatched, affecting grace. As the record progressed, I couldn’t help but grow more enamored with Mike Hadreas’ style of tender, fragile pop music. Each and every song on Back is purposeful and effective, without a moment lacking pure emotion.

Musically, Put Your Back N 2 It is almost flawless. Alongside Hadreas’ capable vocals, a piano takes center stage on all but a couple of songs. The instrument, criminally underutilized in modern pop and rock, creates an aura of beauty and elegance that permeates throughout the entire work. Alongside the piano stand gentle drum lines, heavy atmospherics, and restrained guitar lines that add a level of tension to the mix. Worth noting is the clear musicianship on display here. The piano takes many hints from classical music, and is indisputably graceful. It’s wonderful to hear a musician with a clear knowledge of his instrument, the most obvious display of which can be heard on the title track’s lovely outro.

Though Hadreas’ instrumentation has noticeably stepped up in terms of its depth and complexity since 2009’s Learning, the album still meshes together into a distinct ambience. The music creates emotion on its own, and without paying attention to a single lyric, it becomes clear very quickly that this is a very sad album.

Upon repeated listens that focused on the lyrics, I came to find that, for the most part, my prediction was spot on. Hadreas sings of heartbreak, addiction, and hope, utilizing a set of evocative and well-constructed lyrics. In “Hood,” Hadreas encapsulates the fear of a lover finding his true nature, offering “You would never call me baby” as the song’s central lyric– a thick slab of emotion that strikes straight through the heart. “Dark Parts,” another highlight, is a heartfelt ode to his mother that seems to be about her being hurt by an ex, that exudes hope and sincerity.

Though the lyrics on Put Your Back N 2 It tend to fall into the cliché and the previously heard, Hadreas’ emotive and tender vocals breathe life into the songs. As his voice shakes on “Hood” and fades in “Dirge,” it is clear that his lyrics are more than words on a page.

Perfume Genius tends to be immensely reminiscent of blue eyed soul, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if someone who particularly enjoyed Adele’s ever-popular 21 found more than a little to adore here. Alongside clear parallels between other artists such as Antony and Johnsons and James Blake, I felt a very similar vibe on this record to that of Bon Iver’s most recent. Both share a washed out, musically proficient style.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I cannot praise Put Your Back N 2 It highly enough. It is a truly wonderful album, with an innate beauty that transcends words. If you appreciate music, passing up this album would be a disservice to yourself.

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Perfume Genius: Put Your Back N 2 It