I’ve been vaguely aware of Seattle-based musician Perfume Genius for some time now, but Pitchfork’s bestowal of “Best New Music” on Perfume Genius’s sophomore album, Put Your Back N 2 It, has forced me to give Mike Hadreas a little more attention than I tend to bestow on most buzzbands. Haldreas’ lyrics tend to focus on morose subjects, ranging from spousal abuse to child molestation to drug addiction, but not without purpose. Earlier this year, Haldreas, an openly gay man, found himself at the center of a controversy as Google/YouTube tried to remove the promotional video for “Hood,” as it was deemed “non family safe” for displaying Haldreas and gay pornstar Arpad Miklos embracing in their underwear. (Don’t worry, you’ll be able to judge the video for yourself below.) At the close of a year dominated by news stories of LGBT teens committing suicide and the It Gets Better campaign, Haldreas’ songs and videos are spot on. The music itself, and especially Haldreas’ voice, is reminiscent of Seven Swans Sufjan Stevens, if the horn that Stevens tooted was queer equality rather than christianity. All the songs that I’ve heard so far from Put Your Back N 2 It are quietly powerful affairs that trade their bombast for emotional depth, and the video for “Hood” does an excellent job of embodying this quality. The most striking thing about the “Hood” video is not the presence of two nearly naked men, but the unsettling directness of Hadreas’ gaze and the compassion in Miklos’ eyes as he watches Hadreas. Hadreas forces the viewer to confront him, drawing attention to Miklos’ contrasting tenderness. One of the most striking videos I’ve seen, perhaps the most important music video this year.
Perfume Genius, “Hood” (from Put Your Back N 2 It, 2012)