The promotional materials for Perfume Genius’ Learning show the project’s sole member, 26-year-old Seattle resident Mike Hadreas, shirtless and with a black eye. It’s as evocative an image as the Strokes wearing leather jackets and Velvet Underground t-shirts or Animal Collective wearing tribal masks. The songs on Hadreas’ full-length debut are eviscerating and naked, with heartbreaking sentiments and bruised characterizations delivered in a voice that ranges from an ethereal croon to a slightly cracked warble. The production value is lo-fi, although not in a staticky, antagonistic way. Instead, the crude recording adds intimacy, to the point where you can hear Hadreas’ feet on the pedals of the piano that plays a central role in many of his songs. This music sounds personal.
Hadreas has a knack for detail that recalls Sufjan Stevens’ more intimate and non-big-tent moments, and he knows how to tell a story. For all its fragile moments and depictions of emotional instability, Learning is an unbelievably warm-sounding record. Matador Records