Perfume Genius – “Describe”

The last time Mike Hadreas released a Perfume Genius album was in 2017, when he unveiled No Shape, one of the best albums of the decade. Since then, Hadreas has gone from a cultishly beloved art-pop auteur to grazing the outskirts of the mainstream, with his songs beginning to permeate the atmosphere more and more by way of frequent TV and movie syncs. It was enough to make you wonder what might happen when he released the followup to No Shape, and it turns out we won’t have to wonder much longer. The fifth Perfume Genius album, Set My Heart On Fire Immediately, will be out in May.

Recorded in Los Angeles, the new album found Hadreas once more teaming with producer Blake Mills. A press release describes Set My Heart On Fire Immediately as an album that “subverts concepts of masculinity and traditional roles” while introducing “decidedly American” musical DNA. “I wanted to feel more open, more free and spiritually wild,” Hadreas said in a statement. “And I’m in a place now where those feelings are very close — but it can border on being unhinged. I wrote these songs as a way to be more patient, more considered — to pull at all these chaotic threads hovering around me and weave them in to something warm, thoughtful, and comforting.” Apparently, the album was partially inspired by Hadreas’ collaboration with Kate Wallich’s dance company the YC on last year’s performance The Sun Still Burns Here, in which he not only performed but also contributed music. (“Eye In The Wall” came out of that era.)

The announcement also came with something unique, an “impression” of the album from the author/poet Ocean Vuong (whose acclaimed debut novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous came out last year). Here’s what Vuong wrote:

Can disruption be beautiful? Can it, through new ways of embodying joy and power, become a way of thinking and living in a world burning at the edges? Hearing Perfume Genius, one realizes that the answer is not only yes — but that it arrived years ago, when Mike Hadreas, at age 26, decided to take his life and art in to his own hands, his own mouth. In doing so, he recast what we understand as music into a weather of feeling and thinking, one where the body (queer, healing, troubled, wounded, possible and gorgeous) sings itself into its future. When listening to Perfume Genius, a powerful joy courses through me because I know the context of its arrival — the costs are right there in the lyrics, in the velvet and smoky bass and synth that verge on synesthesia, the scores at times a violet and tender heat in the ear. That the songs are made resonant through the body’s triumph is a truth this album makes palpable. As a queer artist, this truth nourishes me, inspires me anew. This is music to both fight and make love to. To be shattered and whole with. If sound is, after all, a negotiation/disruption of time, then in the soft storm of Set My Heart On Fire Immediately, the future is here. Because it was always here. Welcome home.

Along with the album news, Perfume Genius has shared a lead single called “Describe.” “It started as a really somber ballad,” Hadreas explained. “It was very minimal and very slow. And then it turned into this beast of a song. I started writing about when you are in such a dark place that you don’t even remember what goodness is or what anything feels like. And so, the idea was having someone describe that to you, because you forgot or can’t get to it.”

The song is a pretty different sound than what we might’ve expected after No Shape — all corroded distortion and guttural guitars, until these flickers of beauty start to cut through the murk. Hadreas’ voice is lower in the mix, as if he’s fighting to make himself emerge from the messiness of the track. “Describe” comes with a video directed by Hadreas and featuring the YC. Check it out below.

TRACKLIST:

01 “Whole Life”
02 “Describe”
03 “Without You”
04 “Jason”
05 “Leave”
06 “On The Floor”
07 “Your Body Changes Everything”
08 “Moonbend”
09 “Just A Touch”
10 “Nothing At All”
11 “One More Try”
12 “Some Dream”
13 “Borrowed Light”

TOUR DATES:

05/29 – Chicago, IL @ United Center#
05/30 – Milwaukee, WI @ Fiserv Forum#
05/31 – Detroit, MI @ Little Caesars Arena#
06/02 – Toronto, ON @ Scotiabank Arena#
06/03 – Montreal, QC @ Bell Centre#
06/05 – Randall’s Island, NY @ Governors Ball
06/06 – Washington, DC @ Capital One Arena#
06/08 – Charlotte, NC @ Spectrum Center#
06/09 – Atlanta, GA @ State Farm Arena#
06/11 – Miami, FL @ AmericanAirlines Arena#
06/12 – Orlando, FL @ Amway Center#
06/14 – Manchester, TN @ Bonnaroo
07/17 – Minneapolis, MN @ Xcel Energy Center#
07/19 – St. Louis, MO @ Enterprise Center#
07/20 – Kansas City, MO @ Sprint Center#
07/21 – Tulsa, OK @ BOK Center#
07/23 – Austin, TX @ Frank Erwin Center#
07/24 – Dallas, TX @ American Airlines Center#
07/25 – Houston, TX @ Toyota Center#
07/28 – Glendale, AZ @ Gila River Arena#
07/30 – Denver, CO @ Pepsi Center#
08/01 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Vivint Smart Home Arena#
08/03 – Portland, OR @ MODA Center#
08/05 – Vancouver, BC @ Rogers Arena#
08/07 – George, WA @ The Gorge Amphitheatre#
# = support for Tame Impala

CREDIT: Camille Vivier

Set My Heart On Fire Immediately is out 5/15 via Matador. Pre-order it here.