Put Your Back N 2 It CD
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2012 album from Seattle singer/songwriter Mike Hadreas AKA Perfume Genius. His jarring 2010 debut album, Learning, was called "an album of rare, redemptive beauty: one of the most uniquely endearing and quietly forceful debut albums of recent years." Put Your Back N 2 It is much more universal, addressing intimacy, power, family, secrecy, and hope not just through his impressionistic lyrics, but the music itself, which is as lush as Learning was stark. Recorded by Drew Morgan and John Goodmanson, this sonically beautiful, more approachable album will connect with more people directly.
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The intricacies of love, desire, coupling, and fulfillment flow like a crushed velvet tide washing up on battered shores. So fragile yet so uplifting, the artist has spun silk around our hearts embracing our sadness, our disenfranchised youth, the memory of a lover.
Subtle organic electronics paired with an angelic resonance akin to James Blake, Arthur Russell, or Julianna Barwick -- Perfume Genius will capture your every wish, fulfill it, empty your soul of its insecurities and then renew in a sensual catharsis. An achievement of pure fragrant genius.
His sophomore album Put Your Back N 2 IT is equally beguiling and easily more sonically pleasing. The beautiful melodies are still there but he's obviously improved the fidelity losing the reverb and introducing drums and electronic synth which are used to brilliant effect, especially on single Hood. The song is initially reminiscent of Cat Stevens Tea For The Tillerman with the terse song length and Hadreas's voice syncopating between spartan piano chords. But it takes a more intense turn halfway in, with drum builds and cymbal crashes accompanying the melody giving the song more power and resonance.
Take Me Home is another song that benefits from the extra instrumentation on display here, played in what i think is waltz time with the drums and effects wonderfully supporting Hadreas's voice and piano, providing some much needed levity to an otherwise sombre song about prostitution. Almost every song on this album sounds gorgeous. Whether they feel elegiac or optimistic, Perfume's beautiful voice and lovely piano paired with the new instrumentation are a perfect combination.
The only criticism (granted it's a minor one) is the short length of the songs on the record. Most come in at about 2 and a half minutes and they all make an impression, but perhaps fall short of being truely indelible because of how fleeting they sometimes feel. Almost like a beautiful robin that has somehow found it's way into your bedroom but flies out again just as your about to get close to it. Perfume probably intended them to feel that way, having our undivided attention for a few chilling moments whilst leaving the listener wanting to hear more of his story the next time round. Nevertheless it's a special album that comes highly recommended.
"Put Your Back N 2 It" is a sonic portrait of a brave soul ... willing to put his feelings, his experiences, his love, his pain and his humanity out into the world in an unfiltered way that very few people probably ever have the guts to. The songs on this album are fairly short, featuring mostly simple arrangements and straightforward vocals. However, this only adds to the emotional punch the songs pack.
"There is love with no hiding," Mike proclaims on the album's title track, and on "Dark Parts," an aching love song, he offers "I will take the dark part of your heart/into my heart." If this album has a theme, it seems to be unconditional acceptance ... of yourself, of others, and of life.
Recently, a handful of pop stars have released songs that are supposed to inspire LGBT youth (Lady Gaga's "Born This Way", Katy Perry's "Firework", et al). On "All Waters," when Mike sings "When I can take your hand/on any crowded street/and hold you close to me/with no hesitation," it's the most resonant, powerful, and political song about the experience of an LGBT person I've ever heard.
The only other artist I can think of that I can possibly compare Perfume Genius to is the late Elliot Smith, who also crafted simple, powerful, heartbreaking songs. While there is despair in Perfume Genius' songs for sure, there is also a resiliency perhaps lacking in Smith's work. "I will carry on with grace," Mike sings in "No Tear," and I believe him.
The production both fits and transcends the subject matter - the sparse piano-and-voice arrangements get subtle, stirring pushes from string washes and ambient atmospherics. Only on "No Tear" does it become gimmicky, with slowed-down backing vocals sounding more cheesy than innovative.
The songs themselves are so raw as to feel tentative in places, like demos that were too intense to initially release. Hadreas longs for the chance to hold hands in public and other denied pleasures that cut far deeper than the sex that most emo-range performers long for - in Hadreas' world, the hurdles that lead to that haven't even been seen yet. The basics are still forming, and you can't help wonder if he'll make it to anything carnal, or if so, will it be fruition or escape?
As if to sum up the emotional possibilities, the album's single "Hold" featured a YouTube-banned video showing Hadreas and gay porn actor Arpad Miklos in an underwear-clad celebration of what could be, from the simplicity of combing someone's hair to the complexities of embrace. Miklos' suicide in February 2013 adds an unintended chill to those in the know, and a warning to those in the dark - while the you-sang-my-life crowd may relate to these songs, the songs will not save them by themselves.
Indeed, for the most fragile psyches among us, listening to "Put Your Back N 2 It" and, say, an Antony and the Johnsons album in the same evening could result in a tendency to want to check out this Miklos territory. Such are the dangers of being honest, and this is the most brutally honest record you may hear in a very long time.