The first thing you’ll notice when looking at this record is its cover art. I’ve had friends tell me they really dislike the artwork and I can definitely see why, it’s incredibly unappealing to look at, but that’s the point. Perfume Genius has always been a very polished and refined act with pretty much all of the material falling under a poppy genre tag. Ugly Season is the exact opposite of this. This is not a pop album in the slightest. While there are a couple of more pop-sounding tracks (i.e. Eye in the Wall, Pop Song) overall this album sounds and feels ugly; it’s harsh and aggressive; it feels unpolished and dirty; it feels ugly.
But that isn’t a bad thing.
One of the biggest reasons this album has stumped for this long is just how different it is to any of Hadreas’ previous work. I knew this album would be different from his other work from listening to the two singles that had released prior to not just this album’s release but his previous as well. Eye in the Wall was a psychedelic dance track that is as infectious and addictive as a drug and Pop Song almost feels like the iron scaffolds of a pop song with its twinkly vocals and sounds and slight industrial undertone. The synth really brings out its rough edges though but once again, both of these songs were still relatively in the vein of Perfume Genius, they just felt like an evolution, and a very welcomed one.
I was not expecting a lot of the tracks we got on this record. Some of these songs make the two aforementioned tracks feel like actual pop songs. There are incredibly industrial and noisy soundscapes present throughout. The opener Just a Room sets this stage instantly with its eerie and unsettling drone and Hadreas’ despondent, withered vocals. It’s incredibly minimalist but still manages to pack a punch. A lot of this album is incredibly, incredibly minimalistic. There are points where there’s a lot going on that it’s difficult to keep track of but then there are other moments where practically nothing is happening. Moments that should feel blissful but instead end up feeling uncomfortable and uneasy. They feel… ugly.
I think Herem is a really good example of this minimalism at its best. It’s the second longest track at about seven and a half minutes. It’s an incredibly pretty track with layered violins and Hadreas’ once again despondent, reverbed vocals filling the air. One thing worth noting as well is how the track opens. You can clearly here a chair being pulled as if this was a completely raw recording. This record wants you to know how raw and unpolished it is but funnily enough in doing so it shows a newfound form of beauty. This especially shines in the second half of the song where the synth and piano kicks in. We hear the occasional hum from Hadreas but overall it’s this psychedelic journey of warbly synths and occasional piano strikes and it’s incredibly pretty.
Throughout the album we hear beautiful swells of orchestral instruments. We hear violins and pianos, we hear strings upon strings and of course Hadreas’ beautiful voice behind it all.
There is one song here though that stands out among the rest. While most of the album can be summed up as what I just said, besides the tracks Pop Song and Eye in the Wall; Hellbent sticks out incredibly prominently as a harsh, noisy and industrial track. It seems to be a prequel to the track Jason from Hadreas’ previous record Set My Heart on Fire Immediately but takes a much, much darker tone. While the original song isn’t happy either its emotions were quite evidently sad but comforting. Hellbent on the other hand feels frantic and chaotic, angry and scared. It’s loud and harsh and at points peaks incredibly high. This is a very harsh song, especially for an artist like Perfume Genius. But it fits. It shows this harsh and ugly side that the album had been building up to. Hellbent is the epitome of ugliness, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who would call this track pretty, and that’s the point.
None of this album is meant to be attractive in the normal sense. There are many moments that are incredibly pretty to listen to but they are a stark departure from Hadreas’ usual style, an incredibly stark departure. It’s night and day.
We had what was possibly his most beautiful album in Set My Heart on Fire Immediately and then we got his rawest. Ugly Season is an art piece more than it is an album and that’s evident throughout. Apart from one or two songs none of this is meant to be catchy or really fun. It’s something you sit down and absorb.
Ugly is beautiful.
Favourite Tracks: Herem, Teeth, Pop Song, Ugly Season, Eye in the Wall, Photograph, Hellbent
Least Favourite Tracks: Scherzo
|1||Just a Room / 88|
|2||Herem / 95|
|3||Teeth / 85|
|4||Pop Song / 99|
|5||Scherzo / 79|
|6||Ugly Season / 100|
|7||Eye in the Wall / 100|
|8||Photograph / 98|
|9||Hellbent / 100|
|10||Cenote / 90|