Saturday, March 21st, 2020

Perfume Genius – Describe

We do describe him for you!


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[7.78]

Vikram Joseph: As far back as “Gay Angels” on his debut album, Mike Hadreas has been experimenting with washes of sound; back then, as a comfort blanket for queer pain, and on No Shape frequently as a way of transcending it. Where “Otherside” and “Slip Away” burst into ecstatic climaxes, “Describe” hits you with a wall of warped shoegaze guitars right out of the gate. Coupled with the stunning, sensual visuals (Perfume Genius aesthetics are rarely less than remarkable) it feels like a Bacchanalian dream, folding into a nocturnal miasma that’s more than two minutes long but which I would be happy for to drift on indefinitely. Hadreas has formed a career arc that takes you from songs that sound like being huddled next to him on the floor in a bare, cold bedsit to music that takes you to unimaginable places, while never sounding quite like anyone else.
[9]

Michael Hong: Another Perfume Genius single, another shift in sound, not so much a curveball but a progression. “Describe” is different from whatever sound you attribute to earlier Perfume Genius material. It lacks the hurried tempo of “Slip Away.” It throws out the sparseness of “Eye in the Wall.” And yet, the dense slow-burn of “Describe” never takes away from its urgency or primal desire. “Describe” doesn’t shimmer, it doesn’t glow, instead it features Hadreas chipping away at its dense exterior in a slow rise, like the feeling of waking up after being numb for so long. 
[8]

Alfred Soto: Some may miss Mike Hadreas’ delicate ministrations, but gimme the crunch of the last couple years. He hasn’t lost the resignation and insistent self-pity with which he’s darkened — it’s harder to hear them now. And “His love it felt like ribbons/An echo in the canyon” is a lovely line, complemented by those power chords.
[8]

Ian Mathers: Here’s the thing; it is absolutely understandable to note or even focus on how different the sound of Mike Hadreas’s music is now, compared to the first couple of Perfume Genius records. But at the same time, in a very different arrangement (and with a very different vocal performance), this would have fit in just fine in those tender, delicate environs. Which is to say we haven’t lost anything (not least because you can go listen to Learning right now if you want to), and Hadreas’s voice (both literal and figurative) fits all these new modes he works in so well that even when we segue from the Americana shoegaze of the first part of “Describe” into the beatific ambience it all makes sense.
[8]

Alex Clifton: Most of this is pretty good (sounds like listening to Sufjan Stevens through a dirty window), but I’m irritated by the last two minutes of emptiness. I get that it underscores the point of the song, feeling numb and lonely and how that feeling can stretch to eternity in no time at all, but it’s not compelling from a listener standpoint. As with most art dealing with mental health, it’s self-indulgent and I should be willing to forgive, but the world is currently stalling based on (gestures widely) all this stuff. I don’t need more empty minutes to fill with my own anxieties at this point.
[6]

Tim de Reuse: A celebration of awkward, clunky things; the distortion is heavyhanded and clumsy, and the rhythm is fast enough to pick up energy but slow enough to feel like it’s tripping over itself. The most infectious thing, though, is the extra beat that forces you to lose and re-encounter the meter at the end of “his love, it felt like rib-bons.” The expression of vulnerability through imperfect, off-kilter composition has been Hadreas’s strong point for a long time, so the first half is basically a victory lap; the dreamy second half, by comparison, is so clean and unsurprising I’m surprised it’s on a Perfume Genius album at all.
[7]

Ryo Miyauchi: While dissonance in the music made the emotions difficult to coherently read on No Shape, “Describe” hits it raw and direct. The raging reverb of the guitars is aggressively physical, untouchable only because it’s too hot on the surface to lay a hand, and the lyrics get straight to the point despite the details being shaped as a suggestive metaphor: “his love, it felt like ribbons — can you find him for me,” Hadreas yearns like he’s trying to remember a dream.
[8]

Olivia Rafferty: “Describe” arrests with the “hey, look at me” confidence of an oil slick on tarmac. It hits you and then just keeps rolling, shimmering murkily. We’re offered sonic footholds, lapping up one after the other: slide guitar, wavering vocals, possible mandolins… but as soon as they appear they melt, and are hard to fully extricate. Even the lyrics are imagistic enough to never offer firm disclosure. It feels over before it ever really kicks in, fading out but lingering oddly like a whispered mirage. 
[7]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: I’ve never heard a song this exquisitely lost-feeling. In its first half, you can almost mistake its desolation for joy, its fuzzy wall of sound spreading out across the track like some kind of exultant beast. But once the waves of guitar fade out and the empty gets to creep in, “Describe” reveals its true self. It’s the most heartbreaking thing, too void to even know its own sadness.
[9]

Reader average: [7.5] (2 votes)

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