Perfume Genius - Too Bright

Released September 23, 2014

By Brendan Tuytel

Mike Hadreas’s debut was something special. Learning, under the moniker Perfume Genius, was intimate, daring, yet simple. Recorded after moving to Washington in what was a very dark time for the artist, Hadreas composed simple melodies to jarringly morose words. It was haunting, it lingered, it was memorable. Additionally, the context only amplified how special of a record it was. Done with rudimentary recording equipment, to have the level of depth it had was a feat. So when he followed it up with a properly recorded studio effort, something was lost in translation.

Too Bright succeeds where Put Your Back N 2 It fell short. Hadreas goes into new song writing territory that wasn’t initially possible and the result is utterly fantastic. The second track, Queen, sticks with you with its slightly odd take on pop. His troubled voice is as poignant as ever, but is used with much different accompaniment making for an exciting new sound. Put Your Back N 2 It just wasn’t different enough to be memorable; it felt content to sit in its status quo repeating formerly established tropes, almost like an extension of Learning.

This is when Too Bright is at its best, when its stepping as far from the past comfort zone as possible. Tracks like the aforementioned Queen, Fool, and Longpig all contest Hadreas’s typical sound and are remarkable as a result. The tracks can be sombre in content, but are juxtaposed by rhythmic and enamoring beats and pop instrumentation. But Hadreas finds balance by having intermissions of more mellow songs. Simple piano tracks are spread throughout the album, but never impose or detract from the experience. Rather, they keep the album from being over indulgent or imposing. It provides a fantastic overall package.

Too Bright is Perfume Genius’s biggest success to date. Learning was a great album that was made better by a story, but Too Bright reaches a new level of musicianship. Yet at its core, it still has similar fundamentals. At no point did it feel too unfamiliar. What separates it is that it’s done in so many utterly better ways. The new takes on his old style are bold and refreshing not just in terms of him as an artist, but music in general. This is a truly unique album that has a great collection of songs that you’ll want to keep coming back to, and they’re surrounded by complimentary fillers in such an expert way. By indulging in his individuality, Hadreas has put forth a sound that only he can really offer. As soon as I had played the album once, I started it up again simply to indulge the craving it gave me for more. This is the illness and the cure, living in a constant dichotomy of self and it is beautiful for it.