REVIEW: Perfume Genius – Put Your Back N 2 It
Posted: February 16, 2012 Filed under: Review | Tags: 2012, perfume genius
Second albums are usually anticipated with slight scepticism of whether the artist can truly live up to the expectations put forward by the first record. In the case of Perfume Genius, this has never been more true. 2010’s debut, Learning, was a collection of ten highly personal songs which covered very delicate subject matter in a heartbreakingly sincere manner. Perfume Genius, AKA Matt Hadreas, really held nothing back in recording it.
Around two years later, he’s ready to give it another go with the second offering, Put Your Back N 2 It. While Learning took advantage of a very minimalist set up, comprised primarily of just a piano and his falsetto voice, accompanied by the occasional synth, the second album treads similar concepts, but expands on them significantly. Like most good follow-ups, this record displays a much wider scope than the debut; everything feels on a grander scale, while retaining the haunting warmth of Learning.
Put Your Back N 2 It sees Hadreas tackling similar themes as the debut, he does so in a different way to Learning. He seems a lot more self-confident on this album, with ‘Take Me Home‘ sounding especially triumphant; it’s like he’s transitioned into a much more extroverted person, both vocally and lyrically. On ‘Hood‘, he questions how much we truly know about one another, highlighted using the line ‘You would never call me baby if you knew me truly‘ to evoke self-doubt. Hadreas has a quality similar to early Sufjan Stevens in his ability to write songs about such topics so proficiently.
Musically, the album implements a wider range of instruments, be it the low humming guitar that percolates through album opener ‘AWOL Marine‘, the upbeat drumming on ‘Hood‘ or the subtle synths on ‘Dirge‘. There are a lot of little details on the album that really help flesh out the music and give it an intimate atmosphere. He uses simple piano melodies to illustrate his song-writing prowess, with them permeating every song on the album.
The real feat of Put Your Back N 2 It is the expansive range of emotions that are conflicted on the listener in such small bursts. The majority of songs from the album are miniscule in length compared to other contemporaries, but that’s all is needed for the message to get through. Take, for example, lead single ‘Hood‘. At a mere 1:58 in length, the song leaves the listener craving more long after the song has finished. I guess it’s both a blessing and a curse, if the song was longer then it would give the listener what they wanted but the very fact that it was able to have such an effect on the listener in just under two minutes is a testament to Perfume Genius‘s urm, genius.
Despite the emotionally heavy subject matter of the songs, Hadreas has a knack of giving each track an oddly warm and inviting feeling, whether it be through his enchanting vocals, the looping piano melodies or the triumphant finales found on some songs. For example, while ‘All Waters‘ is carried along by a brooding, melancholic tone, Hadreas uses his vocals to evoke tenderness which would otherwise not be found.
With Put Your Back N 2 It, Hadreas displays an innate gift for song-writing; he’s created a legitimately brilliant follow-up to the original. It’s bigger and bolder, but still pertains that same soul that made Learning so memorable – the poignant lyrics and melodies will stay with you long after the album closes.