Generally, a record benefits from having structure and order that help to build upon each and every track into a more complete experience. For No Shape, the thematic elements that encourage individuality go hand-in-hand with the formless song structures that always begin disjointed but find their place in bombastic chorus and melody. Mike Hadreas has once again reinvented himself for the better and brings an abundance of fresh ideas to explore in a brief 43-minute segment.
If 2014’s release Too Bright is considered Hadreas’ pop record, No Shape is certainly an expansion of those elements set amongst varying rhythms and diverse instrumentation, setting itself apart from anything the effeminate maestro has released so far.
The first notes of the record play descending piano intervals and place the bar at a low point before exploding into a shimmery; bass-engulfed chorus preceded by Hadreas’ delicate vocals. After repeating this twice, the transition into the next track is abrupt and greeted by spongey guitar strings that begin in a dark and gritty context but eventually develop into a track that effectively serves as a “part two” to the opener “Otherside” with its similar use of hefty synth basslines.
Part of the love I hold for this album is within its excellent track placement and the way the record ultimately resolves itself into a steady rest, as the BPM noticeably decreases consecutively in the last three tracks and feature a lurking marimba instrumental that propels the empty spaces on “Run Me Through” and finishes strong in Hadreas’ arguably most passionate piece “Alan” which accentuates his normally light; airy tone into a throat-sung and flat inflection that appropriately suits the line of “how weird” at the end of each chorus.
The centerpiece of this album is undoubtedly the track “Wreath” and serves as my favorite song on here. Everything about it rings so perfectly in the context of the other tracks, it’s no surprise that it fit right in the middle of the album. From the fade-in intro consisting of bright bells and echoing piano movements, Hadreas paints a hopeful picture that hardly even needs words to express the apparent feelings of this piece. At the peak of the track, the almost-yodeling vocals harken back to Ezra Koenig style melodies that stick in your head and induce singing along (or at least attempted singing).
If there are any drawbacks here, it’s that some spots feel like additions could have been made to create an even better album than the one delivered. “Every Night” is a light and moving track that holds a sound resolve but also seems like only a little more than an unmarked interlude that was included for an extra time bonus. The pacing of “Just Like Love” also feels slightly normal compared to the other chaotic moments on this record and therefore suffers some mundane qualities in the verses but are almost ignorable.
As a whole, “No Shape” forms into a truly solid album that showcases an even furthered look into Perfume Genius’ range and songwriting ability. Through its narrative-esque structure and dynamic instrumentation choice, there is a lot here to experience for both new fans and long-time listeners of the fabulous chamber-pop icon. My honest opinion of this album is a 9/10