Set My Heart on Fire Immediately: album review



Hannah Mirsky, Music Beat Reporter

Rating: 10 / 10

The somber, yet desirable and dreamy sound of Perfume Genius has resurfaced on his fifth studio album titled “Set My Heart on Fire Immediately.” The album sets out to form a new name for rock music by incorporating a dream-like feel throughout its entirety.

Releasing an album so personal during quarantine leaves more room for the music itself. Mike Hadreas, who goes by the stage name Perfume Genius, had hoped to produce more music videos to enhance the aesthetic for the album but was unable to. Unsure of when music will be able to be played live again, Hadreas understands most of his listeners will be hearing it for the first time in the comfort of their rooms.

“Set My Heart on Fire Immediately” is a very intimate album. From the second the album begins, you are no longer just listening to the album as he pulls you into the world he has created. The album covers the difficult topic of his relationship with his body, as well as others.

The first track of the album titled “Whole Life” begins with the lyrics, “Half of my whole life is gone,” and with those few words, it helps set the tone and direction for the entire album. Most of the tracks on this album are very drawn out and feel very heavy. The songs do not hold many lyrics, but with a few short verses, he is able to produce this dreamy like essence to his songs. It is very magical to listen to because you instantly get swept up in the trance of the sound.

The songs seem to follow a path of a dream. There are more longing and sadness than him being able to find what he is singing about. The more upbeat songs like “Without You” and “On the Floor” are laced with a sad undertone.

A recurring issue Hadreas is trying to deal with throughout the album is that he can feel all these things on the inside but when it comes to his body, he feels he needs to hide the things that make him happy. This album, as well as his past albums shows the challenges he faces in the world as a gay man.

As the album nears the end you can hear the shift in those difficulties he was facing. The beginning songs all took place in his head and what he was feeling, but everything was hidden.

The ending of the album seems to reach a better sense of reality. The dream wears off and he is not so clouded by the past and what he cannot change. In the track “Some Dream” he becomes frustrated with the idea of there being no one after he leaves this “world” he is in while he writes his music. Hadreas admits that when he writes music he isolates himself from his friends and family. Five albums into his music career he wonders how many more times he can do this to himself before no one will come back around.

The last track on the album, “Borrowed Light,” is described as “the saddest song I’ve ever made,” by Hadreas in a song-by-song analysis interview with Pitchfork.

He has been swept up in the whimsical nature of the album, altering the reality of his music and admiring the world he has made for this album, but realizing that what he wrote may mean absolutely nothing in the end. That the whole time people are trying so hard to make sense of what is going on in their life, it may never amount to anything. It is a heartbreaking way to end the album, but Hadreas seems to have made peace with that idea.

The album pulls the listeners into Hadreas’ world just as much as it pulled him in. When an album is as raw as this, it is easy to be encapsulated in a world produced by someone else. Throughout every track there was space left to think. Hadreas sang his words directly and I found myself to be caught off guard. I think many artists today want to protect their thoughts and emotions when they release it to the world, to keep some guard and walls left standing. Perfume Genius never does that and it is very interesting.

Hadreas is influenced by ‘50s and ‘60s country artists, such as Dolly Parton and Townes Van Zandt, because of the way they wrote their music in their time periods. At the time most music genres would cover up their sad lyrics, but country artists never held back and wrote exactly what they were feeling.

This album may have weighed heavily on my mood after listening to it, but I appreciated every second of it. Hadreas created a masterpiece that will definitely hold up in time alongside his other four albums.