In 2020, in the early days of lockdown, Perfume Genius (real name Mike Hadreas) released his fifth studio album, the dark and brooding Set My Heart On Fire Immediately. Now that the dust has settled, let’s take a look back over his records and separate the stunners from the… others.
62. I’m A Mother, Too Bright (2014)
61. Dreeem, Learning (2010)
60. Moonbend, Set My Heart On Fire Immediately (2020)
59. Just a Touch, Set My Heart On Fire Immediately (2020)
Our journey into Perfume Genius’ discography begins with the atmospheric I’m A Mother. This is a track that screams ‘background music’ while it certainly creates a mood, it does very little to grab the attention. Moonbend is one of the Perfume Genius songs where my opinion varies the most from day to day. While I often like some parts of it, I often find it overly long and with not much going on. The double bill of Moonbend and Just a Touch does pull down the momentum of Set My Heart On Fire Immediately quite significantly in the middle.
58. Your Drum – Formerly Lake Vue Gardens, Learning (2010)
57. Divine Faxes, Learning (2010)
56. One More Try, Set My Heart on Fire Immediately (2020)
55. Write To Your Brother, Learning (2010)
Learning was Perfume Genius’ debut album, and while it has pretty moments, its lo-fi sound and sparse writing makes it hard to recommend when compared to his later works. The songs are raw and affecting, definitely worth having a look and every now and again, but it was no surprise for me to see so many of those early songs fall so low when compared to some of the great work he produced as he gained more confidence in and prowess over his skills. One More Try is a song from his latest album that, while not bad on its own, doesn’t really help the mid/late-album sag kicked off by Moonbend.
54. No Problem, Learning (2010)
53. Run Me Through, No Shape (2017)
52. You Won’t B Here, Learning (2010)
51. When, Learning (2010)
Run Me Through is a song that works when I’m in the mood for it, but unfortunately one that I often skip when I’m listening through No Shape, which was the album that fully confirmed me as a Perfume Genius fan. Even for the songs that I’m not such a big fan of, such as this, I end up enjoying the lyrics. It’s just the pace of the tracks that can sometimes cause things to grind to a halt. The Learning tracks here are all pretty decent, but nothing too special of note.
50. Take Me Home, Put Your Back N 2 It (2012)
49. Gay Angels, Learning 2010)
48. Dirge, Put Your Back N 2 It (2012)
47. Never Did, Learning (2010)
Really, it’s from Take Me Home onwards that I start to find this list so much more difficult to make, as I start to really enjoy all of the songs from here on out, with my favourites varying depending on my mood at the time. I generally find Take Me Home to be the weakest on Perfume Genius’ very solid second record, one that, while not dislikable, doesn’t really bring that much to the table. Never Did is a pretty solid song from Learning, one where you can see more clearly the origins of the sounds from his later work. The vocals feel slightly clearer and the melody less atmospheric and more typically structured. It’s a nice piece of work and one of the more accessible tracks from the debut album.
46. Mr. Peterson, Learning (2010)
45. Braid, No Shape (2017)
44. My Body, Too Bright (2014)
43. Go Ahead, No Shape (2017)
42. Perry, Learning (2010)
Go Ahead was the first single released from No Shape and consequently my first taste of the album to come. While it wasn’t an immediate hit for me, I did find myself intrigued by some of the odd sounds and rhythms that Perfume Genius uses throughout the song. It’s gripping and, although the subject matter has been done better before (on his most famous song, Queen), Go Ahead still stands out with its own personality. My Body is one of the many Perfume Genius songs to discuss his own discomfort with his body – a recurring theme throughout his albums, especially in his latest three.