Perfume Genius is the recording name for Mike Hadreas. Too Bright is his third studio album. This album was such a breath of fresh air. Occasionally, I will run into an artist or genre that blows me away; one that I couldn’t even imagine what it sounded like before listening to it. Perfume Genius falls under that category. I had seen the album cover around and I listened to the first track to see what all the fuss was about. I thoroughly enjoyed it, so I told one of my friends. He listened to the whole thing, then recommended it to me. There were parts of this album that legitimately surprised me, as well as parts that were done well more than once. The instrumentation, production, and songwriting on this album are phenomenal.
Too Bright starts slowly with the slow piano song, “I Decline”. Part of this track’s beaty comes from how minimal it is. The instrumentation is reserved, and the overall sound isn’t over-the-top.
After a polite and mellow intro, the album picks up a bit with “Queen”, one of my favorite tracks. The tone shifts from a soft ballad to a harder, harsher sound. “Queen” opens with steady distorted guitar. The guitar isn’t too overdriven, which is nice. In addition to the guitar line, a choir swells in and out to add harmony for the first few bars. The first time this album caught me by surprise was when the keyboard line comes in. The whole song is unbelievably sassy, especially in its lyrics: “Don’t you know your queen, gleaming, wrapped in gold leaf,” as if to say “how dare you don’t recognize me … No family is safe / when I sashay.” Here, Hadreas is saying that he knows people fear him because of his sexuality. He’s saying that nobody is safe around him because he’s gay.
The following track is my favorite. “Fool” features a low-fi early synth to set up the chords and rhythm. The snaps on the offbeats give a nice, crisp contrast to the otherwise filtered texture it overlays. A clavi-like synth plays a really nice bass line. After a bit, everything fades out while a sweeping analog synth pad takes over in free time. Mike showcases his amazing vocal range in this track. When He’s singing the really high parts, the sweeping synths come back in, followed by the familiar snaps introduced at the start of the track. This time, however, an upright bass is used instead of the sawtooth bass, and a bari sax also plays some bass parts. A pleasant and well-transitioned change of texture. Instead of abruptly changing the scene to something completely different, he throws in a sound the listener is already familiar with and uses that as a basis to introduce something new.
The lyrics and vocals in “Grid” caught my attention. The vocal lines sound like something off of a Radiohead album, namely Ok Computer. The lyrics are pretty humorous as well: “A diamond / swallowed and shit / then swallowed again. / At least we know where it’s been.”
After traveling through the Tron-esque synth arpeggios in “Longpig” and the immensely dark tones in “I’m a Mother”, Too Bright draws to a close with the song it was named for. “Too Bright” puts Hadreas’s vocals and piano playing in the limelight. While the track also features some orchestral instruments, they are not the focus for the majority of the song; they shine through towards the end of the song.
Every song has its fortes and each one fits well in the overall structure. The instrumentation that Perfume Genius uses creates an unbelievably beautiful array of textures. I highly recommend this album.
Favorite Track: Fool