Now Wave presented Seattle’s Perfume Genius, aka Mike Hadreas at Band on the Wall on 2nd September 2014. The show was shortly before the release of his third album Too Bright, which was met with widespread critical acclaim.
With his first two studio albums, Hadreas cemented his place as a singer-songwriter of rare frankness, creating songs that, while achingly emotional, offered empathy and hope, rather than judgment or handwringing. Sparse, gorgeous and with his quavering vocals often only accompanied by piano, 2010’s Learning and 2012’s Put Yr Back N 2 It told uncommonly beautiful tales of a life lived on the dark side.
Less self-conscious, and less concerned with storytelling and easily-digested melodies, Too Bright is a stunning about-face which brings to mind audacious career-shift albums like Kate Bush’s ‘The Dreaming’ or Scott Walker’s ‘Tilt’, records which walk the tightrope between pure songwriting and overt experimentation. This sharp U-turn came early in the writing process, when Hadreas grew creatively frustrated and uninspired writing what he thought people might want to hear – as he describes it, “mid-tempo Adele songs, carefully plotting each chord and lyric like math” – and focused instead on writing what came naturally, 100% visceral and unfiltered, no matter what the potential reception might be. “I looked to PJ Harvey,” he recalls, “how powerful and raw she can be, and thought, ‘what is my version of that?’”
This, in fact, is the overarching theme of Too Bright; the discovery of strength and power where previously he felt he had little. As he puts it, during the making of the album, it felt “like I had woken some ancient beast which began to rattle and threaten to rise.” With this record, consider the demon awoken.