While the pandemic ground most of the world to a glacial pace, Mike Hadreas found a new gear within the inertia. Ugly Season, the sixth album from Hadreas under the Perfume Genius moniker, is the culmination of an intensely creative period.
In 2019, Hadreas wrote a batch of original songs for The Sun Still Burns Here, an immersive dance piece he produced in collaboration with choreographer Kate Wallich. The piece was shown in several major American cities, while the songs were produced and expanded upon in-studio by producer Blake Mills. Yet when the emergence of COVID forced performances to come to an unceremonious halt, Hadreas chose to pivot rather than pause.
Ten of those songs ultimately became Ugly Season, an otherworldly and melancholic work of progressive pop music. Structurally, the album is sequenced like performance art, with extended stretches of ghostly vocals and fractured melodies giving way to movements of baroque chamber music, space-aged synths and classical orchestration. Hadreas’ vocals are haunting as ever, at times getting intentionally lost in the ether, rendered waves of humanity lost in the hiss of Mills’ dynamic atmosphere. Ugly Season is an accomplished, restless record, born from and made to reflect the shifting landscape of its inception.