The music of Perfume Genius can be intense, shuddering with a breathtaking fragility — but also shimmying with self-assured defiance. The songs, much like Hadreas himself, are strong, but not hard. As he worked his way through two new tracks (“Valley,” “Slip Away”) and one older (“Normal Song”), there were moments that were both beautiful and unnerving, in no small part because the songs are so deeply personal. Hadreas, who years ago battled addiction and a parade of inner demons before finding love and an ever-expanding confidence, wrote much of No Shape as a love letter to his boyfriend (and Perfume Genius keyboardist) Alan Wyffels.
On “Valley,” Hadreas reflects on the creeping past as he sings, “How long must we live right / before we don’t even have to try?” On “Slip Away,” he celebrates having emerged on the other side of darkness: “Don’t hold back, I want to break free, God is singing through your body, and I’m carried by the sound.” But Hadreas saved the most powerful moment for the final song, as guitarist Tom Bromley and percussionist Herve Becart stepped away from the Tiny Desk, leaving just him and Wyffels on keys as the two played “Normal Song,” a profoundly moving plea for strength in the face of an always uncertain future. “Take my hand when you are scared and I will pray,” sings Hadreas. “… And no secret, no matter how nasty, can poison your voice or keep you from joy.”
The fourth full-length from Perfume Genius, No Shape, was released May 5 on Matador Records. The band’s tour through the U.S. and Europe continues through the fall.