Perfume Genius – No Shape Review 


Seattle based songwriter Mike Hadreas reached new heights with 2014’s Too Bright. His new sonically charged sound would have easily been album of the year in a typical year, but 2014 was packed full of outstanding albums. In a way, this meant the album didn’t get the full attention it deserved. With his fourth album No Shape, he can go on to truly grab everyone’s attention. Though it featured a greater sonic sound, the album was still quite cold and distant in places (which was perfect for the album Mike was crafting), but with a different musical mindset and a new producer in Blake Mills (John Legend, Laura Marling and Alabama Shakes) a greater shift in sound could be facilitated. That is something that artists like Mike Hadreas rarely pass up. 

 ‘Slip Away’ was the first single from No Shape  which sees Mike take another leap to his next musical destination. Shifted and distorted metallic beats open the song, chiming and meandering gently before the song explodes into a burst of sound and vibrancy. Pounding beats, shimmering electronica and the crashing of cymbals fire you into the next phase of the song from which a sudden pitch shift stems the tide of volume. This gives him license to fire in and out of this soaring and quaking sound. His quivering and poised vocals hold strong against the vast sounds and well placed backing vocals carry the song through its abrupt transitions and drive through the aggressive delivery of the instrumentation. It is only fitting that a song defiantly asserting identity is so bold and charged. From this track at least, Mike has effectively strapped a rocket to his sound of three years ago and it sounds truly wondrous. ‘Go Ahead’ is a muffled and distorted in its opening beats whilst Mike’s closely recorded vocals guides the song along across complete drops in sound, which make a big impact despite the understated sound. On the second verse, well placed pitch shifted beats and gradually the song takes on shimmering effects whilst remaining at ease with its tone; never feeling the need to break out. A well disciplined track. 

The album opens beautifully with Mike’s delicate vocal alongside a trickling piano. At his word, this sound expands and soars as if an M83 with greater purpose and melody. The sheer difference between the closed sound of the limited piano and the soaring expanses thereafter are stark and gracefully executed. ‘Wreath’ is a track with instantaneous rhythm from the shuffling synths and beating percussion. There’s a charged, distorted buzz from the tracks production that makes every simple guitar strike a bold theatrical event in the songs progression. It never speeds up or explodes into a peak, but its constant bustling energy throughout and Hadreas’ eager, trembling vocals ensure you don’t need such a fix. ‘Sides’ is packaged in a wiry, Eighties rock aesthetic akin to the rough tones of Julian Casablancas and The Voidz, but here it is taken and mounded into a ballad. This isolates Mike’s vocals along with the sweeping backing vocals to deliver another typically showcase moment. The warping synths and vocals from Weyes Blood create a wonderfully harmonious, yet disjointed sound. ‘Run Me Through’ is a smooth song with chiming organs that allow for more excellent vocals and harmonies from Mike Hadreas. This eventually descends into an open, whirring soundscape that begins with light, yet gradually darkens before going to the next verse via perfectly place bass lines and percussion. 

These are the highlights from an album that does not shine as intensely as it appears on the surface. As always he produces some excellent intimate pieces of music verging on chamber music. Every track has a sweeping moition to it however, where his last album was deliberately more angular. Some of the arrangements and production choices here make for a graceful and naturally intense sound. Perhaps it did need a few more songs like ‘Slip Away’ but it is difficult not to get lost in the depths of what is simply a beautiful collection of songs. In some places the arrangements have echoes of Morning Phase from Beck, but in all there tends to be the scope for the odd production tweak to heighten the sound further. A different beast from Too Bright, but No Shape is a beautiful one at that. 

Perfume Genius – No Shape = 9/10

Owen Riddle

Single Review – Perfume Genius – Slip Away

Seattle based songwriter Mike Hadreas reached new heights with 2014’s Too Bright. His new sonically charged sound would have easily been album of the year in a typical year, but 2014 was packed full of outstanding albums. In a way, this meant the album didn’t get the full attention it deserved, but his new Perfume Genius track will make you take notice. With his fourth album No Shape expected on May 5th, ‘Slip Away’ as the first single from it sees Mike take another leap to his next musical destination. Shifted and distorted metallic beats open the song, chiming and meandering gently before the song explodes into a burst of sound and vibrancy. Pounding beats, shimmering electronica and the crashing of cymbals fire you into the next phase of the song from which a sudden pitch shift stems the tide of volume. This gives him license to fire in and out of this soaring and quaking sound. His quivering and poised vocals hold strong against the vast sounds and well placed backing vocals carry the song through its abrupt transitions and drive the song through the aggressive delivery of the instrumentation. It is only fitting that a song defiantly asserting identity is so bold and charged. From this track at least, Mike has effectively strapped a rocket to his sound of three years ago and it sounds truly wondrous.

Owen Riddle 

This Weeks Music Video with Gorillaz, The Weeknd feat. Daft Punk, Weezer, Perfume Genius, The Shins and James Blake

Christine and the Queens – Chaleur Humaine Review

The reserved and quiet Héloïse Letissier from Nantes becomes Christine at night, in the studio and in front of thousands, even millions when you look at the view count of her videos on Youtube or her almost cult performance on The Daily Show in America in December. Before that performance, she was already a superstar in France and on the continent, but that is Christine’s domain and it is her that we shall speak of. She is being hailed as the next stage of Pop evolution with her streamlined, yet graceful arrangement and delivery along with the slickest of slick production. When you tie this to her introspective and assertive lyrics and solid Pop harmonies then you see Pop as a genre being pushed beyond it’s perceived limits. File Christine next to Grimes and FKA Twigs for acts who are pushing the boundaries of popular music. The question has to be; is she even better than her innovative contemporaries?

‘Tilted’ is the single that most people are familiar with and the track coolly announces itself with short, whirred synth chords and light, echoed overtures with a simple whispered backbeat behind it. Christine’s vocals are as clear as glass and fit around the sounds hand in glove. Her vocals swing from calm reassurance to selective bursts of fluent vocal harmony. Once the arrangement pulls back we are shown through her French rap from blocky and bold transitioning to hushed and easy tones that her range is more wider than we thought. It is a song that does so much without much effort. The sounds are minimal, yet infectious and catchy. Each hook is perfectly balanced and advanced by vocals that are masters of their surroundings. Beyond this, it is just ridiculously stylish. One of the best Pop tracks of the year. ‘iT’ is a track that opens with spaced out piano chords and vocal murmurings with Christine’s vocals isolated vocals driving the song with raspy bursts. When set against the soft nudging electronica and distorted bass samples, we see power resonating from the soft edged arrangement. The power of her self-discovering lyrics and embracing of the individual are just as potent as the vocals that deliver them. We find a contemporary, graceful ballad in ‘Saint Claude’. Between the strung out piano chords, subtle whirring synths and slightly distorted hip hop beat sample, there is yet another vocal variant in Christine’s faint falsetto alternating with her lowered tones. String sections roll in with her rising falsettos in a somewhat cheesy fashion, but it functions with the nature of the track.

Darker shifts and clasps define the rhythmic, yet mysterious track that is ‘Narcisuss Is Back’. The arrangement moves cleanly from echoed, lone vocals to rumbling electronica in the most natural fashion. Spared loud points of vibrant electronics ring out at intervals across the song. ‘No Harm Is Done’ with Tunji Ige is a piece of Hip Hop greatness with power behind each beat. It goes on to shift to a more gradual motion as the track is led by a leading bass line before easily throwing itself back into those heady beats. Christine’s vocals are complimented by Tunji’s gruff harmonies. Another example of the diversity on show. ‘Jonathan’ with Perfume Genius is a beautifully delivered, tragic swoon with Mike Hadreas’ quivering tones met with strings whilst Christine’s wistful French prose met with blocky synth chords. The song entwines electronica and string orchestras in an unheard and lifting fashion. A wonderful and dignified track. ‘Here’ is another effortless delivery of vocal variation in an imitation of the rising tones of the chords around her. Even the comparatively weaker tracks on the album feature popping beats and seamless transitions from English to French. Each track receives the respect of urgency or contemplation depending on the feel and is produced as wonderfully as Christine delivered the songs. This is quite simply Pop mastery. Pure and Simple. Remember the name, but more importantly the sound.

Christine and the Queens – Chaleur Humaine – 9/10

 

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Top Ten Albums of 2014!!!

This year has been an excellent yeah full of skilled musicians and many masterful albums. Unlike in 2013 the mediocre has been pushed aside by the sheer mass of talent on display. Everyone from the emerging artists, legendary names and artists fully coming out of their shell to maximise their full potential have all made 2014 a year to remember; so much so that albums from artists such as Black Keys, Broken Bells, Temples, Mac DeMarco, The War on Drugs, Kasabian and more have all failed to crack the top ten when any of their albums would have done so in 2013.

10. Julian Casablancas & The VoidzTyranny

Julian Casablancas is a man who has already sought claim and success with The Strokes over a decade ago and also received recognition for his debut solo album back in 2010 which ultimately culminated with the accomplished ‘Instant Crush’ single in collaboration with Daft Punk. For 2014 he teamed up with the self made Voidz and intended to break down all barriers to experimentation as he combined a multitude of sounds and methods with the only piece of continuity being the fuzzy and murky recordings. Despite some aspects not gelling together; most of the album worked in a refreshing and eye opening fashion. With a little refinement and the odd tweak we could have been talking of Tyranny as number one on this list.

9. Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots

Full of mystery, intrigue, reflection and honest cynicism. An album that remains slightly lost in the thoughts and feelings of Damon Albarn, but what a place to be lost in. It flows or even trickles along from one song into the next and through peeks some moments of real beauty, but considered beauty that doesn’t require a big ‘Michael Bay’ style conclusion. It requires a considered and thoughtful person to listen to an album from a considered and thoughtful man (oh and one hell of a musician too) For a debut album too? Remember the name…. he’ll go far this one….

8. The Horrors – Luminous

Luminous was a slightly odd turn for The Horrors to take but one you would have imagined was going to come. They stopped and pondered. They looked at Skying and thought they could make it better. They did. The added sense of rhythm and connection with these songs are brilliant along with the revelation that was Faris’ vocal development and added ability. It just about justified the three year wait and despite not having the effortless soars and sweeps of their previous album, nor the varied and innovative nature of the sublime Primary Colours; it is still a wondrous creation as you’d expect from The Horrors, even if it was weirdly familiar.

7. Warpaint – Warpaint

An accomplished piece of expansive art rock. Despite it’s growing and expanding sounds that they produce with ease; this album usually incorporates a captivating central element to it’s songs that filter out a hopeful atmosphere into a murky and lingering gloom that keeps you perched on the edge of your seat as the trepidation never ceases. At times too, it really has a keen sense of rhythm and stylistic individuality. This isn’t an album for the ‘TV Dinner’ type of listener looking for a loud and crashing quick fix, but a perfect example of production discipline and manipulation around a strange yet keen sense of rhythm.

6. Wild Beasts – Present Tense

Wild Beasts produced an album that remained close and intimate as it kept all the bursts, transitions and awesome shifts in sound right by you; not in a distant and fading manner that is far off and out of reach, but something you felt coarse right through you as it bounces and shoots about your head with every synth glow and crisp riff. On top of this, it has an excellent lyrical dimension to it too which focuses it in even further, whether it’s the pulsating art rock, the sweeping electronica or the wistful ballads of Present Tense.

5. Perfume Genius – Too Bright

Too Bright was bold and remorseless with every track on what was a varied album of fluctuating tones and emotions. Some of the tracks soar high and deliver shivers, crisp and gleaming delivery and dramatics of the soft edged ballads. All of this was done in a consistently slick and stylish fashion whilst not sacrificing any ounce of musical feel or quality which is an ever present throughout the album.

4. Manic Street Preachers – Futurology

All hail the Manics! For they are back and better than ever. These are words I’d never imagined uttering again as I witnessed one of the legendary British bands sink slowly into their comfort zone. Leaving their dynamism and lyrical daring safely in the 1990’s. If last year’s Rewind The Film gave us a clue to this album then it still caught me off guard. They deliver their European sound gloriously and in a fluctuating way with each song as it either enthuses and delights the senses or drops you from emotional highs. Lyrically relevant and challenging as they always have been too. They’ll have to clear a space next to the Holy Bible, Everything Must Go and This is my Truth Tell Me Yours  trio as Futurology is about to join them on that mantle.

3. FKA Twigs – LP1

She has been a revelation and a saviour to pop music this year in much that Daft Punk were pop saviours in 2013. FKA Twigs went about it in a very different way though. She’s blended together parts of hip hop, R&B, electronica and pop melody with an understated, yet confident projection through her delicate, at times whispering vocal, but with complete melody throughout. She’s given the growing sophisticated pop genre a direction and a purpose with this innovative and refreshing album with both modern, relevant music and lyrics to go with it. Now the only problem she has is following this up for it will be a great task.

2. Beck – Morning Phase

Beck makes a long awaited return to steal you dangerously from this planet and into the soaring and unfamiliar unknowns. You don’t pass through each song, but it passes through you. From the quaking, roaring and frightful instrumentals to the warm and radiant expansive ballad, down to the comforting acoustic tracks; this album takes you on a journey like no other album has this year. It evokes so many different emotions that you almost feel empty and cold by the end of some tracks. The best vocal and instrumental delivery of any album so far this year.

1. St. Vincent – St. Vincent

Annie Clark has always given off little bits of wonder and innovation but this album is those things through and through. It’s the only thing you can rely on in this album for it is not linear in any way at all. Whether it is her swooning and creepy harmonious tracks, her synth driven visions, her lyrically marvelling and vocally outlandish tracks or those songs with guitars that pick you up by your collar and throw you into a mass of undulation, fusion, blocky fuzz or melodic distortion; it’s always fresh, urgent and unrelenting. In a time when so many pretenders mindlessly recycle and replay well documented sounds of the past; here you have the sound of progress. The sound of modernity. The sound of 2014.

This Week’s Music Video with Paul McCartney, Perfume Genius, Charlie XCX, Johnny Marr, Jessie Ware, Blonde Redhead & Wu-Tang Clan