This week in New Music: As Perfume Genius (above) Mike Hadreas exorcises some serious demons on No Shape, Sylvan Esso go all-out pop on What Now, shoegaze legends Shoegaze return with their first album for 22 years, and Erasure reminisce on the gay rights movement on “Still It’s Not Over.”
Perfume Genius – No Shape
Decamping from Seattle to New York having been on the sharp end of some serious homophobic bullying in high school probably seemed like a good idea for Perfume Genius, aka Mike Hadreas but what followed was a spiral into drug addiction.
From that came some MySpace clips a decade ago that lead to a contract and three tortured albums up to 2014’s Too Bright.
The follow-up No Shape still sees Hadreas in tortured, confessional mode but the impression is that he is starting to move on. From “I wear my body like a rotten peach” in 2014 to “I want to break free” in 2017 is an impressive progression.
Musically, Hadreas has a knack for ingenious glitchy pop with a voice echoing Anohni, Jonsi and the harrowing squalls of Martin Grech.
On the closing song “Alan,” Hadreas sings to his partner: “Did you notice, we sleep through the night?”
Equally light of touch and hard to bear, No Shape is one of the albums of the year so far.
Sylvan Esso – What Now
You could think of Sylvan Esso as a project rather than a band and if the experiment was the debut album, What Now is the verified result.
Meath said the pair gave themselves “full permission to just make bangers” and for the most part they have succeeded with electropop tracks like “The Glow” and “Just Dancing.”
On quieter moments like “Die Young” the pair strip bare their songwriting chops.
Generally blippy, always interesting, What Now is a fantastic follow-up.
Slowdive – Slowdive
While the career trajectory for Slowdive is similar to that of My Bloody Valentine – early success, disbanded, myth-creation, reform – everything is similar up to the point of the new music. While MBV’s 2013 return album was decent enough Slowdive – while not exactly doing anything different – shows how it should be done.
What makes the album stand out is the songwriting of course but also the simplicity of making good songs with love, something MBV perhaps was missing.
Slowdive disbanded at least partially due to pressure from the music press to do better than their career-defining 1994 second album Soulvaki. The return album is a band making new music because they want to, not because they have to.
Indie rock lead single “Star Roving” is probably the least representative of the album as a whole. “Sugar for the Pill” is the real deal so listen below and check out the album on Spotify.
Erasure – “Still It’s Not Over”
While the first single from World Be Gone was an upbeat effort, “Still It’s Not Over” is a beautiful track about Andy Bell and Vince Clarke’s participation in the gay rights movement.
Fittingly, it’s a timeless piece that could have come from a Yazoo album.