Out of desperation can come redemption. From challenges that threaten to break us, we learn resilience. Dangerous excess can lead to enlightenment. And though the journey to salvation can be scary, painful and sometimes degrading, we carry on because it is possible to emerge from the darkness.
These are but a few of the lessons Seattle-based singer-songwriter Mike Hadreas, aka Perfume Genius, depicts on his moving second album.
Following his 2010 debut, Learning, Hadreas uses intimate sentiments, dark secrets and bigger, lush arrangements to create a powerful, cohesive statement that addresses the clashing confusion of identity and sexuality; demons such as suicide and drug abuse; and, ultimately, transcendence.
The stark, delicate and poignant songs usually begin with lonely piano or guitar and Hadreas' naked tenor; then they swell with rising action and dramatic confession, calling to mind like-minded artists Antony Hegarty, Lou Reed, Leonard Cohen and Xiu Xiu, as well as writers Kathy Acker, Dennis Cooper and even Edna St. Vincent Millay.
One could quote lines from various tunes that are especially pointed or powerful, or refer to standout songs, but this is a complete work in full, and it's hard to single out one or two tracks. The cumulative effect is not unlike those deceptively quiet but emotionally pivotal songs in a David Lynch movie: In the right context, what is merely pretty becomes shattering.