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The shape of Perfume Genius

The artist opens for The xx at Champions Square Oct. 19


Perfume Genius' Mike Hadreas authored my favorite album of 2017, an unsettling and unsettled pop smear called No Shape (Matador). It's my favorite by such a large margin that English trio The xx — which is headlining this tour, and which also released a fine album in 2017, I See You (Young Turks) — won't get another mention here. All four of Hadreas' LPs are essential listening. His 2010 debut Learning is a detailed-to-the-pixel childhood emotional purge set to affecting, repeating piano figures. Follow-up Put Your Back N 2 It (2012) lifted the lo-fi veil and adopted a layered, classicist approach, but the primary coloring remained. On 2014's Too Bright, everything changed. The song structures and his androgynous voice morphed into hugely weird/weirdly huge theatrical numbers, and Hadreas' embattled homosexuality became a source of undeniable power — both in his lyrics ("Queen" answers his early "non family safe" YouTube censorship with the wicked retort "No family is safe when I sashay") and his look, approximated on Too Bright's 24-karat cover by his transformation into the Academy Awards' Oscar as a gay-runway runaway. No Shape offers yet another unexpected explosion: One minute in to the baroque-minuet intro "Otherside" and lead-single liftoff "Slip Away," those primary colors burst into blinding rainbows, showering audiences in summit-sunrise sound. Every subsequent track argues for this to be either Hadreas' most inclusive and outre work yet, from the plucky, two-toned "Valley" ("How long must we live right / Before we don't even have to try?") and heart-racing Lindsey Buckingham rocker "Wreath" to side-two sundowner "Choir" (a Vivaldi-scored panic attack) and deprived whisper "Die 4 You." It's the kind of record that immediately demands a second spin, an immortal coil as penetrating as it is impenetrable. Hadreas' challenge is thrown down in another of Too Bright's defining lines: He doesn't need your love; he doesn't need you to understand. He needs you to listen. Tickets $15-$52.

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