"Half of my old life is gone," Mike Hadreas sings, on the epic-Badalamenti-like Whole Life, and over 13 songs, he constructs a new one. His affecting work has taken us from the tentative beauty of 2010's Learning, to the transformative grandeur of 2017's No Shape, but here he steadies his gaze on how we can, and should, make our own rules for living.
Conflicts are eased into a rich, cohesive atmosphere – Describe’s swampy, distorted guitars mimics the confusion over lost hope, and the struggle to recover it, Without You rises like a jangly Belle and Sebastian firefly, Jason is all elegant baroque pop, and On the Floor channels Madonna’s True Blue, itself an evocation of 1950’s doo-wop that reinvigorated pop.
And that’s the thing – Perfume Genius is ultimately a pop star; a clever, singular, and considered one, in an over-saturated, under-stimulating landscape, his sensibility ignites.
Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love infuses the prayerful Leave, and its whinnying sounds of dogs, and Your Body Changes Everything is Running Up That Hill meets Under Ice. Moonbend suggests a discordant, drifting version of Mancini’s Moon River, complementing the warm wistfulness of One More Try. Some Dream, Just a Touch, and Nothing at All are heavy artillery, sitting between muscularity and tenderness, as so much of his work does. Borrowed Light is a perfect coda, a prayer to balancing on a knife-edge, but balancing, nonetheless. Exceptional.