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The shape of Perfume Genius 

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

click to enlarge perfume_g_luke_gilford_03.jpg

Photo by Luke Gilford

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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