Perfume Genius - Ugly Season
Jun 29, 2022
Hadreas manages to render imperfection into something perfectly majestic and seductive..

[Hello AOTY, I recently participated in the "Best Albums of 2O22 So Far" list for Spectrum Culture, supporting the latest Perfume Genius album "Ugly Season", so here's the whole of my work + a complementary exclusive version especially for you. Love]

Two years ago Mike Hadreas a.k.a Perfume Genius seemed to have reached the heights of his art with the delicious and thunderous Set My Heart on Fire Immediately, but all indications are that his latest work Ugly Season is the dawn of something even greater. Accompanied once again by his sidekick and multi-instrumentalist Blake Mills, the Des Moines native has simply flirted with the experimental and avant-garde in the past, yet Ugly Season feels like it was imagined from a blank page. For this, Perfume Genius has been more adventurous, deliberately too much so, deconstructing its automatisms to animate them around structures as suspended as they are unpredictable.

Each piece in Ugly Season claims its existence in the face of a conventional model naturally embedded in our perception. Hadreas manages to render imperfection into something perfectly majestic and seductive. All the elements, even the most dissonant for our ears, are worked and reflected to resonate more beautifully. Perfume Genius also relies on a panel and a rich sound as complex as considerable, which makes that one part does not resemble the others. Yet Ugly Season seems to evolve like a story with a beginning and an end, but like all things surreal, the magic cannot be explained, it dazzles and enthralls. This sixth album is conceived and reflected in the manner of a contemporary classical music composition, like an anti-pop figure wishing to redraw the features of popular music.
Obviously an album of this type was made to have no single. This work is conceived as a composition/symphony of contemporary classical music, where each element wishes to bring its stone to the edifice without overshadowing the other. Ugly Season opens with "Just A Room", a contemplative and lush ballad that sets the absolutely divine universe of this project. Paradoxically to the musical content, Perfume Genius paints the idea of a virgin room, without soul and without reliefs, yet in 3 minutes, the author manages to provide an emotion so intense and intimate that we die of impatience to see the continuation. It is then that he delivers "Herem", a hymn to abandonment and social isolation, where the character seems to be rejected by his peers. We can then understand that "Herem" is a kind of flashback that would explain the sadness of the introduction "Just a Room". We already knew the ease of Perfume Genius to build pop vignettes and his tasty writing, but here the author is carried away by a truly sophisticated technical prowess. We find as on the previous song this impression that the atmosphere is suspended, underlining the fact that the character is paralyzed by the hold of the others. However, towards the last minute, the rhythm increases to lead to a flashback within a flashback, an introspection within another on "Teeth".

Teeth reflects the character's secret garden, a mixture of melancholy, hope and sadness that is absolutely profound and overwhelming. The construction of "Teeth" is more simplistic to understand at first glance, but its musical and emotional richness are completely crazy. "What images return to me?" he says to himself, as if everything is going through his mind when the instruments start to light up the scenery. When I alluded a few paragraphs above to the term "anti-pop", I was referring in particular to this song "Pop Song", an example of a very conventional expression here if we compare it to the other pieces, but absolutely delightful and audacious if we compare it to the archetype of a popular song. "Pop Song" perfectly sums up what Perfume Genius has shown us in the past, while showing its evolution. It's a pure delight, melting like a marshmallow, that obviously didn't leave me unmoved.

"Scherzo" is as its name and meaning indicates, it is a performance of Italian origin, mainly played on the piano that is as pleasant as it is complex. Perfume Genius uses it here by pushing the concept to its paroxysm to support the idea of "Ugly". It's interesting, but we can say that it's mostly anecdotal, an interlude made to give thickness to the concept of the album. But also to introduce the eponymous song of the album "Ugly Season", a dub waltz so hypnotic, dissonant and pulpy that Perfume Genius perfectly manages to transcribe its idea. Personally I've never been a fan of dub, I often find it tasteless, and what's fantastic is that the author manages to explore this path beautifully to make something with taste. It's like making turnips taste good to a cook. For him it's making the ugly beautiful. Stunning.

We realize that the song "Ugly Season" is closely related to "Eye In The Wall", by its musical content and its theme, since the latter is the opposite of the first. "Eye In The Wall" is much more lively, more adventurous. It is the story of a character who tries to realize his dreams, to gain confidence but who systematically stopped by reality. The Nu-Disco rhythm of this one gives the impression of an incessant chase until it becomes so crazy and brutal that we do not distinguish anymore what is real or not. A struggle between love and the impossible breaks out, letting us foresee that nothing will happen as planned. We understand unfortunately that the impossible has triumphed on "Photograph", a breathtakingly grandiloquent song, definition of an inconsolable sorrow. Then follows the darkness on "Hellbent", a phenomenal song that freezes the blood. One perceives there in the despair and the fear, put in practice by this industrial instrumentation, all the cruelty and the relentlessness that the character lives. The chaos can also be summarized by this song. Finally the album concludes with a new instrumental, Cenote, the antithesis of the previous songs, a moment of ephemeral sweetness that could be compared to death, when the light arrives ...

Ugly Season is overwhelming, as much by its concept as musically. We feel so much how much the character is drawn from the experience of its author, it is so palpable, so sincere, so true. I think that the author wanted to tell the burden that we live when we feel isolated, different, judged by others, a recurrent evil of our very individualistic society. Nevertheless, Perfume Genius continues to cover us with wonderful projects, all relatively singular, which makes it always difficult to put everyone in agreement on the subject. Personally, I think that Perfume Genius took another dimension with Ugly Season, especially his poetry and his talent as a composer which never cease to impress me.

Track Ratings
1Just a Room / 80
2Herem / 90
3Teeth / 85
4Pop Song / 100
5Scherzo / 70
6Ugly Season / 85
7Eye in the Wall / 100
8Photograph / 95
9Hellbent / 100
10Cenote / 75
Doublez's Tags
Great review!
Thanks buddy (: @Jamobo
seeing you this euphoric makes me eat my breackfast listening to this impressive record - merci pour ça
excellent review.
Thanks to you, friends! It's a pleasure to read you! @JohnLouisHoward
That's the way to start a really good day! Can't wait to see the rating you give it @ocrakraut
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