Perfume Genius Proves Himself as an Artist Unlike Any Other on 'Set My Heart on Fire Immediately'
Published May 11, 2020Mike Hadreas's music is as much about the body – it's movements, its textures, its sinews and fluids – as it is about escaping it entirely, of denying its hold on the spirit and moving beyond. Where 2017's No Shape found freedom in transcending the physical form, Set My Heart on Fire Immediately is a return to the complicated flesh – the silvery connective tissue between Perfume Genius's insular early work and the fantastical abstraction of his later records.
Set My Heart on Fire Immediately is, as its demanding title suggests, his most confident work yet – a patient and emotionally sagacious record that floats and pummels with a sense of satisfied discovery. The trembling first encounter at the heart of "Jason" wouldn't be out of place on 2010's Learning, but its glittering harpsichord and climbing strings are all new; though he began with bare-bones piano balladry, Hadreas has quickly become one of our most texturally adventurous artists. His records squelch, purr and slither like few others – they move like living things.
The album is beautifully sequenced, dotted with towering swirls of sound that cast light and shadow on the moments of shivering quietude. From the baroque-pop fantasy of "Without You" to the eruption of detuned piano and driving guitar that halves "Some Dream," it's immediately the most dynamic record in an already varied catalogue.
And though he expertly submerges himself in a number of styles – '50s balladry, icy '80s throb, swirling alt-pop, sparkling funk – there's a stunning, opalescent clarity to Hadreas's latest vision. The booming swamp-rock of lead single "Describe" was both an exhilarating new direction and a slight red-herring – no other song on Set My Heart on Fire Immediately sounds quite like it. Instead, It's a quieter, more richly detailed record – at points it feels like a spiritual successor to k.d. lang's Ingénue, a smear of classic sounds made sharper and brighter to accommodate another kind of love.
Set My Heart on Fire Immediately is an enormous, cavernous record – the kind that invites you to sit inside and let your fears and triumphs echo against its glittering walls. It's been a small marvel to witness the transformation of Mike Hadreas, and his latest offering is only more proof that he's an artist unlike any other working today, capable of opening doors to the unknown and illuminating new pathways. (Matador)