Seattle â a city that still feeds off its reputation as the birthplace of grunge, where the most masculine of men spat their internal turmoil with all the vitriol they could muster out across their very own musical landscape. But for a few years now the most prominent sound coming out of Seattle has been the hammering of bat against ball courtesy of Japanese baseball icon Ichiro. However Mike Hadreas, aka Perfume Genius
, sets out to change all that though on his debut album Learning
I donât know how successfully you can gauge what kind of person Mike is from his youtube channels (there are at least three I can link him with) but I think itâs fair to say that heâs somewhat eccentric. Or at least he was. On one particular channel Mike spends time creating a character named Flossy and so it comes as some surprise when the album reveals itself to be openly honest and furiously personal.
Reading up on Mike reveals that heâs quite the troubled artist. Heâs obviously been in dark places that most of us could never imagine. The name of the album itself represents someone coming to terms with things, with the world, with themselves. But more often than not Learning
feels like a musical learning for Hadreas. He doesnât sit quite comfortably with his own vocal and whilst at times the emotive whisperings give the songs their character occasionally it becomes too musical theatre and cabaret. As if a drunken, unstable and fragile guy took ownership of the piano at some small bar and played out his life swigging intermittently to numb the self doubt.
Hadreasâ lo-fi sadcore approach is at times heartbreaking and raw but also endearing. His diary-entry lyrics canât help but draw you further into his world. The lyrics though unspectacular feel like theyâve been lying around in various books at the back of drawers for sustained periods of time. They feel like they belong to him rather than just merely sung by him.
âs charm is built largely around Hadreasâ ivory balladeering it is when he steps out of those confines that the album shows the potential it has to be special. No Problem is a particular standout if perhaps not as fully fleshed out as it could have been. Swathed in reverb and with its dreamy haze juxtaposed by a sombre clap of a beat it could easily be another addition to the chillwave movement. It also adds a brief respite to what can sometimes be a heavy going dreary album.
Though you have to applaud the guy on his honesty and bravery sometimes I feel that he has a far more expansive and interesting album in him. And whilst the piano tinkering is nice and plays its part in the duo well with a bit more confidence I feel that Hadreas can produce the kewl magic he has in him.