Perfume Genius’ new album is understated, tender, and filled with a subtle brilliance that makes itself known on first listen. It may not reinvent the wheel, but it’s a finely executed and emotionally raw album that manages to express an incredibly wide range of feelings all at once.

Breaking down each track

Whole Life

Raw, mourning, and reflective—kind of like a Celtic ballad, emotionally. At the 1:02 mark, these twinkly noises start, and at 1:09 the drum and guitar strikes in, and it’s really beautiful. The contrast of the slow, measuredness of his voice and the intensity of the guitar plucking in the background and the strings arrangement repeating itself elevates this song beyond your typical “sad ballad.” As we progress through the song, his voice soars, and all the instrumentals truly start to build together. The “grinding” and the reverberation of every string guitar string is just so awesome. It’s like the sound of the guitar is magnified into something else entirely. It’s heartrending, and vulnerable, a type of performance that Perfume Genius is so good at.

Pour your heart out to this one.


The first half of the song is an absolute rock banger I could slow dance to. Midway, the vibe switches and the song transforms into this Sufjan-esque ambient noise. There’s the distant call of birds, a distant, whispered echos. Capturing two completely different atmospheres and blending them seamlessly in one song—good shit.

Good shit.

Without You

This song is really fucking sunshiney. It’s not super special, but it’s still charming. It’s one of the songs that works its way into your good books — at first I wasn’t sold on it, but by the end I was singing “You know it’s been such a long, long time/ Without you!”

It grows on you.


The introduction to Jason is pretty incredible. There’s a little humming, the bass kicks in, and then Hadreas comes in, at an almost unpredictable moment, crooning “Jason undressed me/ Lying on his sheets/ He did not do the same.” The song had quite a few good moments, like when the drums kick in in, or a little electronic trinket sounds makes its way into the foreground. Nonetheless, throughout the song, I was waiting for his voice to change back to the strong, full vocals of Without You. His voice is a bit high and a bit strained and makes the song hard to relisten to. I get where’s he’s going with the voice, it’s meant to be a good contrast with the low tones of the next track in the album, but on its own it really doesn’t hold.

We could do without it.


The cascading piano at the song’s beginning is very “Morning Mood” by Peer Gynt, angelic and serene. It contrasts with the lowness and the tension of Perfume Genius’ voice, and eventually the song changes into animal calling and rambling mumbles, harmonization and the sucking of breath, the repeated crescendo of strings—it’s really something else. This might be the closest the album gets to being “experimental,” and it’s a strong showing conceptually and in experience.

Strong showing.

On the Floor

ABSOLUTE BOP. It’s like simp, but if simp was groovy and the kind of thing you danced your heart out to “on the floor.”

The rise and fall of his chest on me
I’m trying but it’s all I see
The violent current of energy
I hide it away and underneath

Lock the door
I shake, I promise every day to change
I cross out his name on the page

These don’t sound like dance-friendly lyrics, but somehow this song becomes fun and explosive and cathartic and unbearably emotional all at once. My favorite song on the whole album.


Your Body Changes Everything

Not gonna lie, this song starts off sounding like a Survivor: Redemption Island sound track, but then it redeems (pun intended 😎) itself as the instrumentals grow more complex and Perfume Genius’ powerful vocals make themselves known. “My body changes everything” is delivered with absolute heart and gusto. The squeaking noises, the repeated strumming of the guitar over and over is lovely, there is so much like latent, tightly bridled energy in the song.



Moonbend is definitely one of the more experimental tracks on this album but it isn’t the most interesting one. The instrumentals are a kicker on this one — I really dug the Spanish-sounding guitar laid over the electronic background. However, like Jason, I do wish there was less of his voice on this song — it was in a pretty uncomfortable place the whole song. It’s also pretty long song for what it is.

Well, it’s trying.

Nothing at All

The parts of this song that are delivered in more of a “normal” falsetto voice (the first minute and 2:30-3:10ish) are not as hype, admittedly, but the rest of the song pulls through. The guitar is gritty, his vocals have this tension in them, like he’s straining to scream and yet he’s forcing himself to be muted. There might even be the twinkling of a triangle in there. The main repeated refrain: “I got what you want, babe, I got what you need, son… nothing, nothing at all,” has so much feeling and rawness in it.

Not perfect, but still a good track.

One More Try

It’s like a lullaby for an alcoholic. No actually, imagine Perfume Genius singing this to like, an empty bottle in the dead of night — it fits almost perfectly. The lyrics are beautiful, his voice is haunting, and the instrumentals, as expected, slap.


Some Dream

If you’ve learnt anything about us from this blog, you’ve probably learnt that we’re suckers for post-apocalyptic noises. Give us some sirens singing in the distance, some dissonant piano chords, some distorted metallic churning and we’ll — well, we’ll write about it. Some Dream genuinely check the post-apocalyptic noise box, and there was some really good songwriting in the mix as well. Some lyrical highlights:

I know you called me and I didn’t pick up
I was busy freaking out, yeah
And all that time spent perfecting my look
Now there’s nobody around, yeah
All I meant to love is gone to the ground
Gone the minute I stepped out and looked around

And he ends with a slow but powerful,

All this for a song?
All this for a song?

You feel this one, it shakes you and you know it’s not just the amped up bass.

Borrowed Light

It sounds like the title of the song, like light peeking through crack in a wood cabin or something along that beat. It’s good but not memorable, mostly because it follows a pretty spectacular song. I really wished he ended the album on Some Dream.

Also not really necessary.

Our take:

Perfume Genius manages to elicit and reveal so many different vibes and emotions, even within each individual songs. The album is still stylistically cohesive, with his trademark rawness and haunting voice, and there’s obviously a distinct “narrator” in the music. That alone–making an album it feels like you can really listen to in one sitting—is very impressive.

There are really fucking strong instrumentals, and they make the album as an experience. And there are moments when you just feel so much while listening. It moves you. There are songs on this album that make me want to like, reread Siken and drink tea and say embarrassingly sentimental things.

From “Scheherazade”

That being said, it could be definitely be a couple tracks shorter. Some of the songs themselves could also be pared down in terms of length. And this album isn’t experimental, though it dabbles at the surface of it. It’s not a game-changer—but then again, it isn’t really trying to be. Set My Heart On Fire Immediately is Perfume Genius doing what he’s good at, and doing it really fucking well. It’s extremely well-executed, emotional, deeply affecting music. It’s truly worth listening to.

The Culinarity™ Score:


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