Album review by KevW
This article also appears on http://www.soundsxp.com
The words 'piano balladeer' are enough to strike fear into the heart of many a music fan and have them ducking for cover behind a stack of Stooges LPs, but things are a little different when it comes to Seattle ivory tinkler Mike Hadreas, whose plaintive compositions arrive from a different dimension to vulgarities such as 'Candle In The Wind'. His 2010 debut album as Perfume Genius brought with it a succession of gushing reviews, both of the record and of his live performances. For a brief period you could barely move in the music press without bumping into words such as 'emotive', 'intimate', 'heartfelt' and 'spellbinding'. The wealth of clichés were without doubt accurate, and 'Learning' contained some truly wonderful tracks, check out the stunning 'Mr Peterson' for proof.
Two years on, Perfume Genius drops his second album, 'Put Your Back N 2 It', which is shaped from the same DNA as its predecessor. The bulk these songs being nothing more than, uh, emotive piano, heartfelt lyrics and an, er, intimate delivery that results in a collection of songs best described as, well, spellbinding. The descriptions may be nauseatingly familiar but the music is resolutely unique. Occasionally fleshed out with subtle guitar and strings, each and every one of these tracks packs in more genuine passion that Elton John's entire career. It's a dozen songs so beguiling that an unusual paradox is reached. Some albums work best as a whole and isolating individual tracks would fail to do them justice, but here these compositions are so perfectly formed that almost all of them work best when standing alone, playing them continuously can be a bit much.
Berating an album for containing too many good songs may seem odd, but isolating each song allows it the respect it deserves, plus the similarity of some tracks can be off-putting. When things step up a gear (well, half a gear anyway) we're treated to some genuinely captivating stuff. 'Hood' builds into a piece chamber-pop of the highest order, whereas 'Take Me Home', in all its choral majesty, is the reason why the word 'genius' is included in the man's chosen moniker. 'Put Your Back N 2 It' is an album to be digested in whichever way you see fit. If that means listening to it as a whole then so be it, but if it means downloading a few tracks to dip into or finding them cropping up when your iPod is set to 'shuffle' then, for once, no disservice is being done. Despite the conventional arrangements and format, usual rules don't apply here, and confusingly, Perfume Genius has made an album that's too damn fine for its own good.
Perfume Genius' website
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