Carried by the Sound
In his fourth studio album, Mike Hadreas (aka Perfume Genius) creates a lush ambience without sacrificing lyrics or emotion. Perfume Genius has been shoehorned into several different genres in an effort to categorize Hadreas’s unique style. Perhaps the most interesting of these is “chamber pop,” which may resonate with some as being reminiscent of a chamber choir. Hadreas does utilize this connection, employing a choral sound and rich harmonic textures in many tracks, and even titling one “Choir.” This is a fantastical track with a penchant for glittering melodrama, which is representative of the overall mood of the album.
The album’s title, No Shape, may be an ill descriptor of the album as a whole, because, while the sound is ethereal, the lyrics sometimes are easy to gloss over as one gets lost in the instrumentation and the overall aesthetic definitely “indie,” the feel of the album as a complete work is hardly shapeless. As one listens to “Slip Away,” the title becomes almost a command, or an entreatment for the listeners to let themselves be “carried by the sound.” A particularly interesting track, “Otherside,” creates the dichotomy suggested by its title, contrasting a simple, right-hand piano intro with a cacophonous chorus with insistent strings and, yes, a choir.
No Shape is a largely upbeat work featuring orchestral strings, choral background vocals, chimes and dramatic synths. These glam pop-style numbers are offset by a few lower-energy tunes like the pop ballad “Alan,” the folksy “Valley” or the smooth “Go Ahead,” where one might hear inklings of Tracy Chapman in the vocals, all layered over a smooth bass line. The album is an uplifting and feel-good listening experience, good for everything from doing dishes and dancing in the kitchen to reading by candlelight.