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

Gabrielle Aplin – Light Up The Dark Review

Gabrielle Aplin’s second studio album Light Up The Dark is here as she attempts to draw a greater emphasis on a more rock orientated and anthemic second effort to follow up from the very gentle and safe debut with English Rain in 2013. That was an album full of light, English Folk music like so many others now and particularly at the time so it wasn’t really an album that showcased her talents beyond her trickling acoustic chords and hushed vocals. Lucy Rose had a similar problem and opted for an injection of electronica for her second album earlier this year. Light Up The Dark is an album of redefinition for Gabrielle and is unusual for being a second album that’s doing so and she has little to lose in that sense.

The title track is aptly that one that is most demonstrative of her change and sounds a little like a lost Noel Gallagher track in terms of it’s structure and musicality. Here Aplin injects much more life into the sound however and shows that yes, she has a voice! It’s a powerful vocal that doesn’t sacrifice any of it’s delicacy that we already know, but shows that can pack a punch in that sense. Beyond this the track expels bursts of sound from prominent guitars and piano strikes. ‘Skeleton’ offers up distorted guitar hits into a piece of Pop Rock and gives Aplin the opportunity to expand beyond the airy pop music of the verses to something with more presence in the chorus. This gives her a greater scope with the song’s progression and she achieves the transitions between each sound well though a consistent rhythm. Though a comparatively steadier track compared to the title track, ‘Slip Away’ still offers up sharp percussion and delicately placed riff with the scope to push to tonal peaks throughout and for Aplin to follow suit with her clearly developed vocals. ‘Sweet Nothing’ is a track maintaining the more lively and energetic feel of the album, but in terms of the method it’s a little dry and not dissimilar to her debut album. There’s snappy percussion and sweet backing vocals which creates a track you’ll feel already too familiar with and this restricts her vocals too, which she’d already proved are beyond the soft nudging swoons she offers us here. It is a nice little track in isolation and is a catchy and joyful tune, but it’s very safe territory for Aplin and much less of a song than her title track.

One of Aplin’s main intentions when creating her music is not to be restrained by her successful cover of “The power of love” which was featured on John Lewis’ 2012 Christmas advert. “Otherwise my life is going to be Christmas” She says. In all honesty, there are elements of ‘What Did You Do’  that remind me of nothing other than December 25th, especially the chiming piano, but with the songs she’s released so far she has certainly proved she can distance herself from her cover work. The lyrics of “What did you do?” cry hopeless romanticism, but I doubt we’ll ever know whether or not these are from her own encounters, as Aplin has said in the past that she writes about situations that aren’t necessarily related to her own experiences. ‘Fools Love’ is a more soulful track and offers up nice melodic combinations with Aplin’s vocals and the piano chords and in general is a cool and slick track which she leads very well in a effortless manner. ‘Anybody Out There’ gives us a track led by a echoed, grinding guitar with a stomping percussion behind it. This track shows Aplin’s ability to use the light and depth of the track to generate a more hard hitting and powerful track which this is. The remaining tracks offer up more finely tuned acoustic tracks and a pacey track akin to some of Florence and the Machine’s earlier tracks. This album is certainly not going to set the world alight by any means, but it is a marked improvement on her debut and has allowed Aplin to develop her own sound and style and showcase herself more as a songwriter, musician and vocalist. A solid album from a solid artist.

Gabrielle Aplin – Light Up The Dark = 6.5/10

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995  &  Hannah Crowe

Single Review – Gabrielle Aplin – Slip Away

Gabrielle Aplin’s second studio album Light Up The Dark is on it’s way at the end of the week and another single in ‘Slip Away’ has been unveiled to draw a final emphasis on Gabrielle’s more rock orientated and anthemic second effort. Though a comparatively steadier track compared to the title track, it still offers up sharp percussion and delicately placed riff with the scope to push to tonal peaks throughout and for Aplin to follow suit with her clearly developed vocals. The songs on this album, much like the singles are nothing particularly special musically, structurally or in terms of production, but one thing these tracks have shown is that Gabrielle Aplin is much better vocalist, songwriter and deliverer of music than we might have previously given her credit for.

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995