The Seattle region is the best region in the world. You may be thinking, “well…not so sure about that”…but from early June until late October we have almost NO rain (yes, you read that right). We are close to Puget Sound beaches, the Cascade Mountain chain, Vancouver, BC, Portland, OR, and for the lovers of desolate beaches about a 2 hour drive from the Pacific Ocean Blue. Our area’s reputation as “the rain capital” of the world is a bit much, but we are content to let the myth propagate so that the region is not inundated with transplants (I know that I’m a transplant, but hey…10 years and going strong). Kurt Cobain couldn’t deal with the rainy season. An entire musical genre sprung up from the rainy season of the Pacific Northwest (though 90’s Seattle grunge has its roots in the Tacoma, WA area 60’s band The Sonics – sorry, Seattle).
Ah yes, the rainy season. The “monkey on our back”. How bad is it? It can get pretty bad to be honest. My first rainy season (the fall of 2002 until the spring of 2003) was brutal. How could it rain almost everyday? Not torrential downpours like I was used to in Philadelphia – more like an incessant dripping. Pacific Northwest water torture? By the time I felt homesick and depressed…there was a glimmer of light. Then yes – THE SUN! And by that point, the sun never goes away for about 4 1/2 to 5 months. Then it starts all over. Washington State artist Perfume Genius perfectly captures the Seattle vibe for me – perfect for quiet reflection watching the rain trickle down.
Recently Perfume Genius received a bit of press / controversy over the video to the stunning song “Hood”. I suppose the world isn’t ready to see human affection on display (unless it is over sexualized for straight people, like the video to Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game”). Michael Stipe of R.E.M. defending Mike Hadreas (who IS Perfume Genius) was brilliant and certainly helped raise the profile of the new record, Put Your Back N 2 It.
“I don’t want it to seem like I’ve been through more than other people,” Hadreas says. “Everyone has stuff. Staying healthy can be more depressing and confusing than being fucked up. But I want to make music that’s honest and hopeful.”
I think this quote perfectly sums up this record. Quiet, unassuming. Piano is the main instrument with embellished orchestration. Lyrics that cut like a knife (yes I am a closet Bryan Adams fan). Emotionally exhausting.
My favorite songs:
“AWOL Marine” starts the album off with a little piano refrain, ghostly vocals (I do like to say ghostly vocals, I know). The song slowly builds towards a white noise conclusion. Key lyric: “Awol Marine / Turn toward the camera / slowly” A perfect start to this album. Haunts me long after the sound has gone silent.
“Dark Parts” features rolling piano, almost operatic vocals. Hardreas is pleading to the listener “The hands of god / were bigger than grandpa’s eyes / but he is long gone / the love you feel is stronger/ the love you feel is stronger”. I really miss my Grandpops (both). I barely remember my Dad’s dad (I was 12 when he passed) but the impact he had on all of his grandchildren cannot be understated. My moms dad was pure Philadelphia and the voice of reason. This song had me reminiscing about my childhood, Philadelphia, and my family. Perfection.
“Put Your Back N 2 It” The album and song title made me think of something that an American Idol artist would release. Hardly comparable though (I am not a fan of American Idol to be classy about it). Another slow piano song that segues into a beautiful epilogue of piano and orchestration. A last piano refrain leaves the listener feeling emotionally exhausted (in a good way). Key lyric: “Put your back into it / there is still grace in this”
“Sister Song” My sister is one of the most beautiful human beings I have ever encountered. She has also been the sibling that stayed in Philadelphia whilst her brothers moved far, far away (me to Seattle, WA / brother to Wellington, New Zealand). We have a bond that means so much to me, I can call her about anything and she always listens to me. This song is a simple acoustic guitar song with its lament “Drive on / drive on…” packing an emotional punch.
Those are a few highlights. The album is absolute perfection. I’m interested to see if Mike Hadreas can top this effort the next time around. I highly recommend this.
Verdict: Pike Place Market (best outdoors Farmers Market in the World)
For Fans of: Sufjan Stevens, Summer at Shatter Creek, Jens Lekman, The Postal Service, Epic Soundtracks
1. Awol Marine
2. Normal Song
3. No Tear
5. Take Me Home
7. Dark Parts
8. All Waters
10. Put Your Back N 2 It
11. Floating Spit
12. Sister Song