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.
41. Every Night, No Shape (2017)
40. Jason, Set My Heart On Fire Immediately (2020)
39. Valley, No Shape (2017)
38. Leave, Set My Heart On Fire Immediately (2020)
Jason tells the story of a hookup between Hadreas and a curious straight guy. It’s a fascinating subject, one that he broaches really well, carefully conveying the nervousness and hesitant energy of his partner. While Hadreas is eager to be caring and thoughtful, he can’t help but also be a little cheeky, even admitting to stealing $20 from his partner’s jeans, going as far as to point at the he’s pretty sure the guy saw him take it too. Hadreas’ lyrics are often poetic and dense, so it’s an interesting change to have a song as plain in its narrative structure as Jason is.
37. Longpig, Too Bright (2014)
36. Floating Spit, Put Your Back N 2 It (2012)
35. Sister Song, Put Your Back N 2 It (2012)
34. Fool, Too Bright (2014)
Longpig feels much more energetic and electronic than many of the other songs from the other early Perfume Genius albums, which immediately makes it stand out from the others we’ve covered so far. It would probably be a bit higher up if it wasn’t for the appearance of Grid on the same album, which does a similar sound but a bit better, making Longpig pale a little in comparison. Floating Spit is beautifully atmospheric, Hadreas’ vocals floating eerily above droning instrumentation. It’s a song that envelopes you and fills the room. Sister Song then feels so much more direct, more open in its intention. It hits hard because of its plainness.
33. Learning, Learning (2010)
32. Die 4 You, No Shape (2017)
31. No Tear, Put Your Back N 2 It (2012)
30. All Waters, Put Your Back N 2 It (2012)
As the first song on his debut album, Learning will have been many people’s introduction point to Hadreas’ music. It’s elegant and raw, a perfect mix of the lo-fi vocals of the first album and the clearer melodies of his later works. Die 4 You is a song that might not hit you immediately, but improves with repeated listens, to the point where you feel pumped up as soon as you hear its instrumental begin. From No Tear onwards, we truly are in the top class of songs. Put Your Back N 2 It is probably the most listenable album from Perfume Genius, the one that you can just throw on in the background of any situation. No Tear and All Waters support this – they are beautiful and short, wisps of songs that hang around for a moment before they disappear into the ether.
29. Lookout, Lookout, Learning (2010)
28. Choir, No Shape (2017)
27. Normal Song, Put Your Back N 2 It (2012)
26. Just Like Love, No Shape (2017)
Lookout, Lookout is my favourite song from Learning, Perfume Genius’ debut album. It’s pretty and feels like the most ‘song-like’ song on the record, even if the content does feel very threatening. No Shape is an album that feels very heavenly and angelic, and one of the main reasons for that is Choir which takes it cues from classical music. It feels massive, even as Hadreas’ voice hardly rises above a whisper as he murmurs over the track. Here he discusses that feeling of being locked in his body that plagues his music, especially Too Bright and No Shape. It’s one of the most unique songs in his repertoire.
25. I Decline, Too Bright (2014)
24. Hood, Put Your Back N 2 It (2012)
23. Whole Life, Set My Heart On Fire Immediately (2020)
22. AWOL Marine, Put Your Back N 2 It (2012)
21. Queen, Too Bright (2014)
Don’t you know you’re queen? Queen is the song that broke Hadreas through into many circles, its defiant, rockier edge immediately standing out as a watershed moment in his discography. This is the first time that Hadreas had gone this hard, had felt this political, had felt so strong in his message. The line, no family is safe, when I sashay now being one of the most famous lines from any of his songs. A song that is unapologetically gay, Queen really does feel like a capital-m Moment.