I really liked the previous Perfume Genius album “No Shape.” So much so that it made it onto my shortlist for albums of the year, but it just didn’t resonate with me as much as the other 5 records I ultimately chose in 2017. On his latest album, “Set My Heart On Fire Immediately,” Michael Alden Hadreas and producer Blake Mills have continued to develop the techniques from “No Shape” to make a record that will go down as a modern classic.
From first listen, this album stood out as something special. The vocals are always the centerpiece of the record. They’re both lyrically and melodically captivating, becoming the major hooks for the tracks on repeat listens.
The vocals treatment is massively varied throughout the album; from subtle traditional reverb to blown out distortion, regardless, they sit above the instrumental sections, still feeling part of them.
Their ability to make such varied processing of vocals still sound uniform throughout the record continues with the instrumentation.
There is a mix traditional rock and classical instrumentation, peppered with occasional synthesis, and it all vibrates with a glow of pure class. It’s a well produced album in the traditional sense. Instruments are well recorded and always reflect their desired qualities for each section. It denotes the team behind the record being all at the top of their game and applying their expert techniques to every minute.
But this quality also hides the experimental nature in the record, especially in its use of the stereo field, which create lush vistas for the listener that I’d usually expect to hear on field recordings rather than music. The stereo width immerses the listener in the record to create a dreamscape of perspective, where instruments float around in their positions and the vocals envelop you. Because the application of stereo is used in this way throughout the album, it never feels out of place to the listener. It allows it to feel stylistically far more traditional than it actually is.
If I was going to summarize what makes the record so great, its pretty much the obvious. Well constructed songs with memorable lyrics, and melodies executed and enhanced by top class production. This brings the message to the listener as clearly, and with as much emotionally resonance, as possible.
A collection of great songs on an album that shows them in their best light is never going to be a bad one. In this instance it is the best of the year.