Love Letter To A Record: Phantastic Ferniture On Perfume Genius’ ‘No Shape’

Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.

In this series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.

Here are their love letters to records that forever changed their lives.

Elizabeth Hughes, Phantastic Ferniture – Perfume Genius No Shape

When I first listened to this record I wasn’t totally sold. I found it difficult to love straight away. Usually, these kind of records turn out to be my favourites. The more I listened, the more I connected with it. The theatricality, the darkness, the light, the gender fluidity.

The first song I heard by Perfume Genius was ‘Queen’, off his previous album Too Bright. I was immediately hit by it. It’s so powerful, and fearless. His follow up, No Shape, is incredibly original, a breath of fresh air for me. It celebrates stability and love won through hardship, through pain. It is rich, lush, decadent yet full of self-discipline. An album that is defined by passionate devotion – to love, to life. No Shape said to me, in a time of need, that it’s ok to have duelling qualities within you, within your art, your personality, desires, wants and needs.

I saw Perfume Genius on his No Shape tour at The Factory last year and was completely captivated and blown away. It moved me to tears, it made me smile, even laugh. I feel like the whole audience felt the same – and would only tear their eyes away from Perfume Genius to incredulously assess the crowd in a “are you guys feeling this too? Can you believe we are witnessing this?” kind of way. He swaggered, stalked around the stage – owned the stage. To me it was like this victorious moment for him, and for passion and art and humanity and joy. I understand Mike has been through a fair bit in his life (reflected in his lyrics) and he has emerged from everything so realised, so beautiful. It was so much more than music, it was a whole performance. It reminded me of PJ Harvey, David Byrne. It wasn’t just a musical performance, it was a whole ‘show’ – the music, the performance, the costumes, the stage design.

To me, No Shape is transcendent, full of competing forces. It’s like a feather floating in the sun in one moment, and the very next an explosion in the dark. Yet it’s all so cohesive. The production (Blake Mills) and engineering (Shawn Everett) is masterful – both fierce and delicate. I think what really stands out to me is the incredibly dynamic range of the album, the contrasts of light and dark, loud and quiet. It has no shape in some ways – and celebrates those who have less shape in life, and I’ve always felt like I’ve had no ‘shape’ or one that really evolves a lot – my music, my personality, my tastes. I think that’s why the album, and why Perfume Genius resonates with me so much. It says to me, “don’t be scared to be different or weird, there’s a place for you so don’t let anyone talk you out of being who you really are.” As Hadras declares on opening track ‘Slip Away’:

“Oh, ooh love

They’ll never break the shape we take

Oh, ooh

Baby let all them voices slip away”

Phantastic Ferniture’s self-titled album is out now. Catch the band playing in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide this month in support of the album. Dates and details, here.

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