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 

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.