PER­FUME GE­NIUS Learn­ing (Mata­dor Records)

Pasatiempo - - Pasa Tempos -

Seat­tle’s Per­fume Ge­nius (aka Mike Hadreas) paints a vivid por­trait of a trou­bled youth in the Pa­cific North­west, one that re­minds me vaguely of the films of Gus Van Sant or the songs of Suf­jan Stevens or the Moun­tain Goats. There’s a warm, per­sonal touch to this cy­cle of songs, as though it oozed from his pores into a four-track on a rainy af­ter­noon. Of­ten ac­com­pa­nied only by pi­ano and key­boards, he sings of what come across as snap­shots from child­hood — a moth­erly warn­ing that God won’t lis­ten to him un­til he takes off the dress, an older lover’s gift of a Joy Di­vi­sion mix tape shortly be­fore his sui­cide, a let­ter from his sis­ter while in the hos­pi­tal. Whether all of this is fic­tional or au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal is be­side the point. It’s an al­bum that crafts a world you be­lieve in. “Look Out, Look Out,” a lo-fi gospel song of mur­ders out by the rail­road tracks, is one of the most af­fect­ing num­bers. It’s a throw­back to the tone and sen­ti­ment of old-fash­ioned Amer­i­cana; you haven’t heard the word murder sung in such a stark, ter­ri­fy­ing man­ner since Johnny Cash. Some­times the clear pic­ture is over­run by hazy at­mo­spher­ics, like a pho­to­graph over­ex­posed, but that may be part of the point. The al­bum un­spools like an 8 mm film dis­cov­ered in the back of an at­tic some­where, crack­ling with love and an un­spo­ken, heart­break­ing sense of nostal­gia.

— Robert B. Ker

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