Mike Hadreas has never been one to mince words. So, in naming the first track on his latest album as Perfume Genius, "Otherside," he's letting us know that's he's moving on from the deep confessionals and angry jabs about past sins that typified his previous releases. What the title doesn't reveal, though, is the sonic transformation he's undergone as well; No Shape, his fourth and most immediate album, embraces the lush orchestration that he's previously only teased.
The shifting lyrical perspectives aren't as jarring as they might seem. Hadreas is still singing about himself, though as he's noted in interviews, he's tending to take a more inward look at his life. "I see a light beyond the frame" he sings on "Wreath," showcasing a newfound optimism. His dark tales and concerns with the corporeal are still threaded in as well, just viewed from a different perspective than in the past.
Perfume Genius's sonic transformation, however, is more jarring. Though "Otherside" starts with an arpeggiated piano line and intimate vocals, the explosion of sound a minute in overwhelms, reminiscent of the first blast of sound heard on the Cure's Disintegration. By the time pulsing first single "Slip Away" rolls around, Hadreas is flirting with the kind of pop structures and sounds that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago.
This transformation isn't all encompassing — there are still moments of hushed beauty found throughout No Shape, and where he does employ a fuller sound, it's done sparingly, as on the stunning "Run Me Through."
Many have already viewed these changes as a pivot for Hadreas to move closer to the pop sphere. And while there are tracks on No Shape that bow in that direction. But these nips and tucks to the Perfume Genius sound serve a common goal: showcasing Hadreas, who shines bright like a diamond throughout. (Matador)