Title: Set My Heart on Fire Immediately

Artist: Perfume Genius
Label: Matador
Genre: Alternative / Art Pop
Released: 15 May 2020


Set my heart on fire immediately

Everything about Perfume Genius’ latest album “Set My Heart on Fire Immediately” is extremely evocative. From the eye catching title, to the very first lyrics on the album:

“Half of my whole life is gone”

It’s instantly striking, and this first line in particular sets the framework for the entirety of the record. “Set My Heart on Fire Immediately” is an album conflicted between reminisces of youth, as well as the foreboding sense of ageing and death. It’s beautiful, poignant, and is also one of the best albums I’ve heard all year.

Michael Hadreas has managed to create something extremely special with this record. Not only is it full of a great variety of absolutely stunning songs, but at the same time it delivers such personal and impactful lyrics. While using this core theme of middle-age, Hadreas discusses his experiences with love, sexuality, and his lifelong battle with Crohn’s disease, while also expressing his impending sense of death and the fleetingness of life. In the song ‘On the Floor’, he sings:

“How long 'til this washes away?

How long 'til my body is safe?

How long 'til I walk in the light?

How long 'til this heart isn’t mine?”

These lyrics can be interpreted both as an expression of his uncertainty of his current relationship’s stability, but also as representing a much deeper anxiety: how long he realistically has left in his life. This is also addressed, although less explicitly, in the closing track ‘Borrowed Light’. In the final verse Hadreas uses the sea as a metaphor for the unpredictability of life, stating that there is no pattern or secret; that whatever happens, there was not necessarily a series of logical events that led up to its causation. These songs in particular perfectly capture the album’s sense of middle-age angst, and while the opening track ‘Whole Life’ sets these themes up from the very beginning, it also provides a contrasting perspective on the possibility of acceptance and growth. Letting the pain and trauma of the past wash away and instead reminisce on the positive memories available, as well as making way for the possibility of new love and happiness.

Tracks such as ‘Nothing at All’, ‘Just a Touch’, and ‘Your Body Changes Everything’ are all examples of this. They are all absolutely gorgeous songs, and they heavily contrast against the far more sombre tracks where it’s clear Hadreas is still grappling with his emotions and anxieties. These are some of the major highlights of the album, and although they are tonally different to some of the more mellow songs on “Set My Heart on Fire Immediately”, they still address similar themes. For instance songs such as ‘Jason’, and ‘Your Body Changes Everything’ both describe sexual encounters, however the latter provides a far more sensual and intimate description.

“Your body changes everything

You are anchoring

Until you fit beneath me

And you're breaking like a wave

Our body changes everything”

There are a few songs here such as ‘Moonbend’ and ‘Leave’ which are far less personal or specific to the subject matter, and for that reason they are slightly less appealing in the broader concept of the album. However they are still extremely beautiful sounding, and remain just as poetic as any other track on the record.

Aesthetically, this is by far one of the most beautiful sounding albums of the year. Hadreas’ vocal range is incredible, especially his falsetto in songs such as ‘Jason’, and ‘Moonbend’, which are absolutely stunning. It has a fairly vast instrumental palette too, using a mixture of various rock, pop and classical styles to create something that sounds consistent yet varied throughout. Some highlights include the beautiful final chorus of ‘Nothing at All’; the gorgeous warm harmonies in ‘Whole Life’; and just the entirety of ‘Your Body Changes Everything’, which is absolutely jaw-dropping.

Perfume Genius has without a doubt created one of the best albums of 2020 with “Set My Heart on Fire Immediately”. I cannot recommend this album enough. It succeeds in almost everything it sets out to do, and I am certain that there is at least something on this album for everyone. If you haven’t heard this yet, definitely check it out. It isn’t one you want to miss.   

“Touch me deep

Before you leave

Just enough

To find me”

Reviewed by Layton Bryce - 02/07/20