It might be a little cliche to summarize 2017 as a year for music, and it may very well not have been. Though to say music was not in form this past year will bring about challengers. One very fine example of this is the album “No Shape” from the artist Mike Hadreas who goes by the stage name of Perfume Genius. This album shares inspiring themes of love and personal strength through fragile sounds and textures that prove to be motivational and deeply moving to anyone in need of further reasons to continue through difficult situations for themselves or others.
Mike Hadreas, is a Seattle-based singer/songwriter, grew up in Washington, and experienced bullying on several occasions because of his homosexuality. This may be obviously connected to his themes in music and songwriting, but that would not be giving him enough credit. “No Shape” as an album is not about feeling sorry for him. On the contrary, he does not stick exclusively to those themes and doesn’t ask for anyone to feel sorry. Hadreas touches upon love often in No Shape in a very personal manner. In the song “Sides,” he describes his relationship with his boyfriend and how he can often close himself off from their relationship. Other themes of love come in the song “Die 4 You,” which likens sexual asphyxiation to willingness to give one’s all to a relationship, further discussing love in different contexts.
Another notable aspect of this album is the music and instrumentation behind the lyrics. Often the tracks can come down to purely piano/synth and vocals. Though simple in theory, “No Shape” offers much more than a formulaic musical style. A good example of this is the song “Wreath,” which contains varied textures coming from an array of sources that are essentially synth melodies laid on each other and Hadreas’ vocals. This track is a testament not only to the instrumental quality, but also to the production quality of this album which is another highlight. On this album, Hadreas brought in producer Blake Mills who has worked with John Legend and Fiona Apple in the past. Mills had a strong impact on “No Shape”, which is reflected in the pleasant as well as grand sounds that can be seen on tracks like “Choir.”
“No Shape” is an album full of diverse sounds, which can make it difficult to recommend specific tracks, but some do stand out as particularly enjoyable. One of these is the track “Valley,” which describes struggles related to suffering and can be seen as a song addressing addiction and addictive tendencies, and how it can be immensely difficult to overcome negative routines. Another track from Perfume Genius that deserves particular recommendation is the final track of the album “Alan.” It’s been said that the final track on an album can carry specific importance and can often make or break an album. “Alan” meets the challenge in its touching subject matter as Hadreas talks to his partner, Alan Wyffels, (who is an accomplished musician and has toured with Hadreas) in simple but emotional statements describing how Hadreas is there for him and their connection, “You need me / Rest easy / I’m here / How weird”
These words call out over a sparse, ambient-like instrumentation behind them and demonstrate how sometimes less can mean so much more. “No Shape” is an epic and truly graceful album with a diverse quantity of subject matter covered as well as innovative sounds and production, which makes it well worth a listen.