Album Review: Perfume Genius – Too Bright

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Conveying emotion is difficult. Conveying emotion well—and allowing people to connect to it—is even harder. However, for American songwriter Mike Hadreas, otherwise known as Perfume Genius, emotional darkness and confessions are where he thrives. His first two albums tackle incredibly personal struggles: Sexuality, molestation, and relationships, which results in some of the most raw and intelligent songs the music industry has to offer. His third studio album, Too Bright, continues where Hadreas left off: In a whirlwind of confusion and observations about himself.

It’s a complicated album full of vocal distortion, piercing instrumentation, and incredibly vivid lyrics. Unlike its predecessors, the album marks a huge step for Hadreas: His lyrics are more poignant and the production more explorative, forcing his vocals to the spotlight—a place that he’s previously shied away from. It’s a clever move; whereas the sadness and depression was allowed to fade into the background in his past work—crushed and swallowed by a lonely piano—here the emotion cannot be ignored. It’s raw, it’s epic, and it’s uncomfortable. As opposed to the introverted sexuality and self-discovery lyricism of Put Your Back N 2 It, Too Bright sees Hadras turn outwards, and, like a child, discovers the world around him for the first time. Second track “Queen” boasts quality production with gritty guitar underneath a layer of sunny-sounding synthesizers; “Fool” consists of a ’70s-esque snapping beat overlayed by an epic middle chorus in which it’s impossible to determine whether we’re hearing Hadras’ incredibly confident, almost piercing vocals, or an intense, heavy-reverb screaming guitar. But isn’t that the point? Does it matter what it is if it conveys emotion? The erratic and mesh of instruments reflect the chaos of the lyricism. It’s tough, but it’s brilliant.

Perfume Genius is a rare type of artist; his music is simple but his lyrics contain an unlimited depth, documenting his life experiences and thoughts meticulously. It allows us as listeners to see him evolve not only as an artist, but as a person. Too Bright reminds us that if we take a moment to look up from our own lives, we realize there is a whole separate experience altogether.  It’s one that we might love, we might hate, or we might just not know what to make of it.