Perfume Genius reaches out with bigger, bolder arrangements on the new No Shape | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Perfume Genius reaches out with bigger, bolder arrangements on the new No Shape

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Since emerging at the start of the decade, Seattle singer-songwriter Mike Hadreas (who performs as Perfume Genius) has displayed steady growth and a dramatic expansion of sound, morphing from a soulful albeit tortured piano balladeer into a full-blown art-pop experimenter. His new album No Shape (Matador) was produced by Blake Mills, and it situates Hadreas’s rich, androgynous singing in the widest array of contexts yet, all of them far more explicitly pop than his previous efforts. There’s a kind of 60s Brill Building sophistication to many of the tracks, though the string-laden “Just Like Love” updates its old-fashioned inspiration with billowing New Agey accents, while “Go Ahead” feels decidedly more modern—it’s a stuttering R&B ballad with kaleidoscopic interludes colliding into off-kilter grooves. The music is slicker than ever, but the lyrics are more veiled and mysterious while still using a poetic lens to view sensitive issues like sexual harassment, existentialism, and submission (in “Run Me Through” the narrator even suggests wearing his skin like leather).   v

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