Album Review // PERFUME GENIUS ‘Set My Heart On Fire Immediately’
Perfume Genius’s fifth album, Set My Heart On Fire Immediately, is a poetic meditation on the energy within us and around us.
Mike Hadreas’s, also known as Perfume Genius, new album, Set My Heart On Fire Immediately, is a cruelly, mercurial reflection on a passionate life lived. If 2017’s No Shape was the finality of grounding into life, then 2020’s Set My Heart On Fire Immediately is the extension of those roots and reflection on the endless work that shadows exploration. A thorough yet short story of Hadreas’s life narrated by the grandiose storyteller himself; accompanied by stimulated ballads, twisted instrumentation, and the duality of aggression with frailness – a soft disaster that destroys and heals.
With the opening lines in Whole Life, “half of my whole life is gone”, Perfume Genius brings his defiant reflection of a life that is midway to the grave. With sedated vocals that resemble the sensation of swimming in honey followed by an erupted orchestra of light harmonies; the track relays a concrete yet dreamy understanding of mortality. Contrasted by the track Describe where uncertainty turns toward lovers’ words to proffer the meaning of such a world. With the juxtaposition of full, fuzzed guitar performances and empty, languid synths bring the swirling thoughts of a depressive episode. As Hadreas pleads, “Can you describe them for me?” before the swirling slowly dissipates and heaviness comes to a halt.
Hadreas wildly plays with the jarring juxtaposition of musical styles from buoyant acoustic pop Without You, to seedy falsetto Jason, to the calculated chaos between his deep vocals and psychedelic harpsichord Leave, to the 80s funk-infused dance intermission On The Floor – a complete ode to everything we have learned and oppositely, everything that immerses us in wonder.
The mix of styles and prevalent collaborations bring staggering qualities through each unique track, with help from Matt Chamberlain, Pino Palladino, and Jim Keltner to create the matured etherealness of Perfume Genius. From Your Body Changes Everything where rich vocals, “Give me your weight, I’m solid” match with the confident, abrupt instrumentation; a simple track that gets to the point. While Moonbend is anything but concise – scarce sounds, bouncy harp melody, tape hiss, and echoing synths. Hadreas describes sex that strangely feels erotic yet medical as he sings, “Carving his lung / Ribs fold like fabric.” Moonbend becoming a track where the music production elucidates something that cannot be put into words.
Hadreas brings his early work into the evolved project of Set My Heart On Fire Immediately. The silky feedback and grimy punchlines in Nothing At All – “I got what you want, babe / I got what you need, son.” Accompanied by the visceral, messy track of Some Dream where the self-analyzer comes out of hiding for one last performance. The volatile approach of scruffy electric guitar riffs and chimed piano chords bring the uncertainty that famed his past projects, “I know you called me and I didn’t pick up / I was busy freaking out, yeah.” Lastly, Borrowed Light goes back to simple roots of hollowed vocals and twinkling synthesizers. A lullaby for the cathartic souls and a final ado to a worldly reflection of our time on this planet, “But there’s no secret / Just an undertow.” A sad yet peaceful realization that even during a spiritual awakening, the doubtfulness still stands strong in the shadows.
Perfume Genius has sculpted a pristine music box filled with heavy sensations through the 50s ballads, 80s glossy bops, alternative and experimental pop, and glimmering funk-edge. An illustration of a slippery universe that we struggle to grasp in this spiritual plane. Through organic sounds and the fluctuations between full bartone and whispered falsetto, Hadreas focuses on the shifts in human consciousness. A lush album to bring forth awareness of our body, our state of being, and our universe.