Perfume Genius, 'Describe': Song You Need to Know - Rolling Stone
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Song You Need to Know: Perfume Genius, ‘Describe’

The singer’s latest is a rush of sludge-pop melancholia

What might emptiness sound like? That’s what Mike Hadreas, who records as Perfume Genius, sought out with producer Blake Mills on “Describe,” his latest single.

The song takes on a simple premise: the narrator is struggling in the midst of a tough episode, asking a loved one to help render the world for them. Much like the way Jeff Tweedy sought to sonically manifest his recurring migraines on Wilco’s A Ghost is Born, Perfume Genius manifests mental darkness on record, its sludge-rock low-end and languid tempo occupied by unfiltered chaos.

Hadreas and Mills, alongside drummer Jim Keltner and Pino Palladino on bass, use a frenetic arrangement with swirling guitars and shimmering synths to represent emptiness. It’s a jarring and moving juxtaposition, the song’s sonic maximalism taking up the space of a depressive episode. “His love, it felt like ribbons/An echo in the canyon,” Hadreas sings over a wall of noise. “Can you just find him for me? Can you describe them for me?”

“I started writing about when you are in such a dark place that you don’t even remember what goodness is or what anything feels like,” Hadreas said in a statement. “The idea was having someone describe that to you, because you forgot or can’t get to it.”

After a pop-perfect two and a half minutes, “Describe” segues into a drone (reminiscent of Mills’ 2018 instrumental album Look), with Hadreas mumbling indecipherably. It’s a haunting come-down after several minutes of the most piercing pop of this young decade.

Find a playlist of all of our recent Songs You Need to Know selections on Spotify.

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