Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Perfume Genius - Put Your Back N 2 It


I'm not about to ride the machine train to copycat stardom. Perfume Genius released his debut in 2010 and has been hovering since then. His debut album was panned for it's lo-fi sound which was too fake. This album name could be stuck to any 1990's hip-hop release, but instead we're sticking it to an indie pop release in 2012, go figure. This album is just over 30 minutes long and it covers all the singer-songwriter basics, adding in the 'emotional' vocals and expected reverb. Just looking at the cover freaks me out, but reading the YouTube comments and his last.fm comments, I'd rather just look away and sit in a corner listening with my headphones, which I will now execute.

The difference between this and his 2010 debut is quite noticeable.. It's the sound production. With all the sweet vocals and progressions aside, Mike Hadreas returns with a mature sound. 'Awol Machine' opens with nine seconds of silence intended for lonesome listening. If you're putting this album on at a party, god help you. The second half of the track is much deeper and melancholy than the first. It has some striking synthesizer sounds which have been mixed well. The vocals sound faint, but they have that eerie effect many male songwriters tend to go by.

'Normal Song' is extremely basic, It doesn't do him any favours from my point of view. If I want dramatic lyrics and heartfelt vocals over the eerie sound of piano's, I'll switch off the light and listen to Anthony & The Johnsons. The same can be said for Bon Iver, Elliot Smith, Nick Drake and the long list of depressing folk/singer-songwriter albums post 1960. Normal Song just goes over my head. The chords are very basic and could be picked up by any new guitar 'player'. The piano is simplistic but the 'minimal' effect isn't present. His vocals have the applicable reverb but his actual vocal isn't clear. 'No Tear' follows and sounds like something Elton John would make. Mike sounds like Antony Hegarty, but without the vocal dynamics. The drumming is fresh and the uplifting second half is a change, it's a respectable track on the album. Same goes to '17'. It has some lovely string work, I wouldn't go as far to call it atmospheric, but it's certainly thought provoking. The piano is delicate and his withdrawn vocals settle in a layered format much alike James Blake's 2011 debut.

Drumming is almost always lacking on these types of albums, but on 'Take Me Home' we hear a completely different story. The drumming echoes around and puts the piano in focus. This is a very vague track and the lyrics are among the best I've read this year. 'Dinge' has a straightforward piano riff. The track has some nicely layered vocals and the vocal progressions are very eerie. The minimalism is present here and the vagueness of the track manages to give it something special and surprisingly full. 

'Dark Parts' is one of the few standout tracks to me. It has a rapid introduction, very Belle & Sebastian-esque (If you strip away the horns, the drumming, the bass.. What am I saying, this is nothing like Belle & Sebastian). It has a lovely fast paced vocal harmony which sticks out and the progressions and soundscapes are extremely catchy. 'All Waters' has a similar feel. It's slower and opens with a synthesizer riff which could be found on any synth pop album. The ethereal vocals are a lovely touch and the lack of piano is welcoming. It's glazing sound submerges above the previous few depressive tracks and creates that uplifting vibe listeners want to achieve from listening to this.

Two minute tracks need to be snappy in an indie pop format. 'Hood' does have some sort of climatic ending, but it's build up is rocky. Nothing upsets me more than pointless progressions which are appreciated way more than they should be. The first minute of Hood is just random. The piano sounds out of place with the vocals and the vocals are too withdrawn for the initial following minute. Of course the second half as a refined progression and the drumming adds to the climax. The vocals layer up and the lyrics are sad, yet allow the listener to compare themselves to Mikes previous experiences. It's a decent track but it's not my pick of the album.

Whoever tagged this as ambient on last.fm needs to be shot. Several synthesizer drones with pitch shifting and ethereal string sounds do not make something ambient. 'Put Your Back N 2 It' is the most melancholy track on the album. The tear jerking piano finale is the best piece of musicianship I've heard from Mike so far. The obscured electronic drum beat on the penultimate track 'Floating Spit', has been mixed to perfection. The layered harmonies work with the synthesizer and Mike's withdrawn and echoed vocal sound better than any lightly reverbed vocal used on the opening half of this album.

'Sister Song' closes the album with predictable piano progression. It's expected that the last song would be slow and have deep piano sounds mixed with the Johnny Cash-esque vocal. I'm not a fan of his this sound, but it does have a hint of sorrow. All in all, it closes the album respectfully without complaints. The 32 minute mark has been reached and the listener is left low-spirited. His vocals sway from reverbed perfection to clear cut bullshit, but overall, his vocals portray the lyrics with withstandable honesty. If you want something more exciting, more enjoyable and more emotional.. Listen to I Am A Bird Now by Anthony & The Johnsons.
~Eddie

7.4

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