TRACK LIFE: Perfume Genius – “Dark Parts”
Welcome to Track Life, a new daily column in which Jacob Knight shares what he thinks to be the best in music, both new and old.
Compassion is hard to come by anymore, but if anybody’s music is the very artistic embodiment of the word, it’s Mike Hadreas’ (a/k/a Perfume Genius). Scored by wistful piano, his lo-fi recordings are filled with the kind of personal details that can only be evoked by those who have endured or witnessed true horror and sadness. Put Yr Back N 2 It, his sophomore record from last year, expounds upon the confessional ballads he wrote for his debut, Learning, by adding full instrumentation and upping the “sordid detail” quotient. “AWOL Marine” chronicles “the desperation, demoralization and soullessness that comes with addiction,” and was inspired by “some unedited homemade basement porn I watched” (according to the album’s press release). “17” is “basically a gay suicide letter,” while “Take Me Home” is “a pop song about hookerism.” The track “Dirge” is based on a 1921 poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay, while the title track is (duh) “about gay sex.”
“The hands of God were bigger than grandpa’s eyes,” begins “Dark Parts” and continues to chronicle the abuse Hadreas’ grandmother suffered at the hands of her husband. It’s a quick, powerful track, full of emotion and evocative imagery. But the most powerful part of this (and any Perfume Genius) song is Hadreas’ utter commitment to making you feel for the subject he’s sonically chronicling. “I will take the dark part of your heart into my heart,” the singer mews as his piano slows, crystalizing his own empathetic manifesto: to lend the cries of the abused and forgotten his voice.