After two albums that hinged mostly on sober ballads, Perfume Genius is back with a bold new sound that manages to retain the drama and charisma that has made him such a fascinating artist. A candidate for Perfume Genius’s career highlight is 2012’s “Hood”, a brief, bracing single that established the unique brand of heartbreak Mike Hadreas can capture with his voice. But beyond the emotion, “Hood” showed Perfume Genius’s skill with composition. At only two minutes, “Hood” felt sprawling and ornate. The fact that Perfume Genius has carried that skill to Too Bright is the main reason it’s such a triumph.
Too Bright starts with the one-two punch of “I Decline” and “Queen.” These two wildly different songs encapsulate the wild shifts in rhythm that occur throughout the album. Perfume Genius is always keeping us off balance both within songs and between songs. While “I Decline” sees Perfume Genius’s more somber, ambient style, “Queen” is one of the most potent songs in his discography. Along with “Fool” and “Grid”, it’s an intense, pulsing song that stands as one of the highlights of these 33 minutes.
Beyond his impressive songwriting and vocal range, Perfume Genius is a master of concision and discretion. This is an airtight record that makes few wrong moves. It ends up feeling like one quick but brutal emotional punch. I can’t wait for the next one.