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Album Reviews

Album Review: Perfume Genius - Set My Heart On Fire Immediately (Matador)

Sam Smith

After releasing four albums in ten years which has seen him become one of the most admired and acclaimed artists in alternative music, Perfume Genius is back with his fifth offering, Set My Heart on Fire Immediately.

Born Mike Hadreas; the American, sits alongside the likes of Yves Tumor, Moses Sumney, and serpentswithfeet as one of a number of queer artists within the alternative music scene that are really pushing the boundaries of what is possible both stylistically and thematically.

Hadreas’s music explores topics such as sexuality, his battle with Chrohn's disease, and being a gay man in contemporary society. Themes of love, sex, memory, and the body are explored intently on Set My Heart on Fire Immediately, with a stellar cast of session musicians joining Hadreas in ensuring his musical vision is realised.

Session legends Jim Keltner, Pino Palladino, and Matt Chamberlin are all present, while Hadreas himself offers up a tour de force in both piano playing and singing as he moves from pure alt pop to baroque pop to rock and more.

Buoyed on by two terrific singles in the form of the grungy Describe and disco banger On the Floor, Hadreas goes full musical chameleon on this record, refusing to stay in any one particular genre box for too long. One minute he is firmly entrapped in one style and before you know it, two songs later he is somewhere completely different, making the listening experience that much more intriguing for fans.

The album kicks off with the gorgeous ballad Whole Life with its injection of strings and piano flourishes linking up beautifully with Hadreas' vocals in what was the perfect way to start proceedings.

Hadreas then channels Edwyn Collins on the pop bop Without You before toning things down slightly on the baroque pop of Jason with a lovely falsetto vocal performance set to harpsichord and cello.

Moonbend is a delightful serpentswitfeet-esque sounding track that really anchors the middle section of the album nicely, and this is then followed by the haunting Just a Touch, a track where Hadreas puts in one of his best vocal performances on the album.

The album’s climax comes with more glorious moments in the form of the folky One More Try, the heavy riffage and glamour of Some Dream, and finally, Borrowed Light, a beautifully tender piece of song-writing which really encapsulates everything that this album represents.

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Image By: Camille Vivier

In a year that is already providing big musical statements, Set My Heart on Fire Immediately is right up there with the likes of Grae  and Fetch the Bolt Cutters (Fiona Apple). This album is a beautiful piece of art full of stunning ethereal arrangements and a vocal performance from Hadreas that surely is among the best of 2020.

Perfume Genius had a good reputation going into this album, but he has exceeded expectations completely with Set My Heart on Fire Immediately. This might just be his best album yet and with it puts him in the a-league of best alternative musicians from the last ten years. After a run of highly successful albums, whether this is his peak remains to be seen. However, based on his success rate so far, you would not bet against him delivering again in the future.

Written By: Sam Smith When he is not writing for Radio 13 Sam works in media and journalism at 95bFM radio and the University of Auckland. He also has is own personal music blog Nowhere Bros.