Top LPs of 2012
No one blurs the line between disarming frankness and confused ambiguity quite like Mike Hadreas. His songs as Perfume Genius are often deeply sad, but there’s something about them that keeps them from veering into trudging self-pity – instead there’s a strange nobility to them, as if he knows that he’s not just speaking for himself.
This, his second LP, may have a bigger budget than his home recorded debut, but there’s something about it that makes it feel even more stripped back than before. Maybe it’s that the melodies are simpler than before, but, this works in his favour, making them more resonant and visceral than ever, and while this was clearly recorded in a studio (rather than at home on a rickety piano), it remains intimate. What shines brightest, however, is the songwriting. ‘Dark Parts’ reaches out to a victim of child-molestation over strident piano rumbles; ‘Hood’ is one of the most accurate depictions of love mingled with self-doubt (and it’s over in less than 2 minutes); ‘AWOL Marine’ is a disturbing portrait of a basement porno, vividly depicted with just 16 words. I only heard about this record because its video advert was banned by YouTube – why it was banned I have no idea, seeing as it just a clip from the ‘Hood’ video, showing two men (in their boxer shorts) embracing, while a section of ‘All Waters’ played in the background. This was banned by YouTube for not being “Family Safe”, yet if you type “Rihanna Lap Dance” into YouTube, the results may make you think that there were other undisclosed reasons. This was particularly ironic, seeing as ‘All Waters’ (probably my favourite on the LP) is about internalised homophobia. Behind all the buzz, however, was a record that remains as muted as it is powerful, as bleak as it is warm and as minimal as it is, unmistakably, beautiful.
For fans of…Bonnie Prince Billy, REM (Automatic For The People era), Iron & Wine, Bat For Lashes
Click here to hear Hood.
–Joe Anthony Hill