Mike Hadreas has been releasing music under the Perfume Genius moniker for a few years now. Up to this point, it’s been mostly short albums of very pretty but very tortured piano ballads, dealing with issues of gay love, discrimination and vulnerability. His last album, released in 2014, was a spiky and introverted little record which went by the name Too Bright.
Hadreas’ latest album, by contrast, couldn’t be brighter. On No Shape, he became a shining beacon of LGBT visibility with a confident and colourful suite of songs that were all about one thing: pride. No Shape is a striking art-pop album about loving yourself and being confident with who you are, no matter what anyone else says.
On ‘Slip Away’, the album’s second track, Hadreas sings: ‘They’ll never break the shape we take / Baby let all them voices slip away’. You can practically hear him shaking off the shackles as he sings these lines, growing into his role as a musical spokesperson for the gay community, all while developing his craft as an artist.
No Shape is a diverse album – it starts off with the sweeping ‘Otherside’, which builds from a twinkling piano into a wall of luscious synthesizers. Then there’s the lilting ‘Just Like Love’, which has a bit of a Latin pop flavour, and some gorgeous breathy vocals in the chorus. There are simple guitar strummers like ‘Valley’, and then there are anomalies like ‘Choir’, which builds a sense of growing tension from sawing strings and choir vocals.
My favourite of all, though, has to be ‘Die 4 You’ – a sultry trip-hop slide that brings to mind Massive Attack or even Talk Talk. This track features a slow, jazzy bassline that really is to die for, and some shimmering keys which form the bed for Hadreas’ angelic vocals: ‘Oh my love / Take your time…’
No Shape was a huge step forward for Mike Hadreas. With it, he produced one of the most ambitious and confident pop albums of the year, delivering an important and vibrant message of diversity, acceptance, and above all, self-love. We would all do well to listen.