A weekly look at must-hear music from The Times' pop staff. This week's picks include the exquisite, adventurous pop of Perfume Genius, the fiery Americana of Pokey LaFarge and more.
Perfume Genius, "No Shape" (Matador).
On his breathtaking fourth studio album, "No Shape," Mike Hadreas, who performs as Perfume Genius, conveys such a wide breadth of emotion that it's hard to know whether to shower him with rose petals, fetch him a cocktail or load him onto a gurney.
An expertly crafted experimental pop album that at various points suggests the work of singer Kate Bush, the effects-drenched work of the Cocteau Twins and British art-rock band Talk Talk — all musicians who mix a certain sonic delicacy with studio heavy production — "No Shape" exudes confidence and vulnerability in equal measures.
Opener "Otherside" sets a tone: A lone piano melody circles, looping listeners like a lasso while hinting at a lullaby. As Hadreas whispers the line, "Rocking you to sleep," the song seems to burst as restrained minimalism begets grand drama. His voice soars, and in a split second, he's a superhero leaping from octave to octave.
"Just Like Love" is a gorgeous rumba with percussive accents and lyrics that capture a moment when tentativeness is supplanted by determination: "Slick, sheen so bright it's a bother/ You are cultivating grace," sings Hadreas. "They're rough/ Smother them with velvet." Such moments permeate "No Shape," a tacit confirmation that the singer has taken his own advice. — Randall Roberts
Pokey LaFarge "Manic Revelations" (Rounder).
The gleeful insouciance of LaFarge's music is darn near impossible to resist. The rail-thin roots rocker from Bloomington, Ill., writes classic-sounding songs that he sings in a voice that's part Buddy Holly, part Nathaniel Rateliff on helium.
His new album is a horn-drenched soul-country-rockabilly workout brimming with luscious grooves and festive arrangements replete with twangy and reverb-soaked electric guitars, fat Stax sax and mariachi-adjacent trumpet licks.
A line in "Silent Movie" outlines his underlying philosophy: "Silent movie/ Cover your ears and watch the world go by/ That's how you survive/ Try and live the life you wanna/ Before you go." LaFarge backs it up with the joyful noise he and his bandmates bring to all 10 tracks. — Randy Lewis
Adrian Marcel, "GMFU" (EL Seven/740 Project)
At a time when R&B is in the midst of frequent metamorphosis courtesy of brooding hipsters and left-of-center experimentalists, this Oakland singer-songwriter really wants to take things back to basics. It's a lofty goal.
Years removed from the flash of his biggest single — 2014’s “2AM” — and parting ways with Universal Republic without ever dropping a proper album, the protégé of neo-soul legend
Marcel is not about chasing trends. Instead, he's offered a collection of records that captures the sunny spirit of the '90s and early '00s with a laid-back cool. Buttery grooves and bangers make this the perfect listen for cruising down to the beach. And in true R&B fashion, there's plenty of tunes primed for slow grinding with bae. — Gerrick D. Kennedy
Jlin, "Black Origami" (Planet Mu)
When you think of percussion virtuosos, you probably imagine Keith Moon, John Bonham or Sheila E. It may be time to add Jerrilynn Patton to that short list. The Gary, Ind., electronic producer's new LP, "Black Origami," is one of the most creative, boundary-pushing records in a genre — footwork — meant to take the human body to new heights on dance floors.
The drum programming, which dominates the LP, takes snippets from taiko, Bollywood, electronic clangs and soulful Chicago house. It's intricate and punishing, industrial and artful.