In college, I dated a girl who drew autobiographical comics. They were funny, but since I was a character in her life, the comics became a bizarre hazard.The most jarring instance was when she drew me as a white person. As you may recall from the unflattering picture that topped this webpage for months, I would not normally be classified as a white person. The comic hit me in an uncomfortable place, I'm half white, half Indian and this comic disrupted my entire bi-racial experience. I had always sort of figured that even though I was an equal amount white and colored, the part of me that mattered for people to identify me, my skin color, was Indian. So, I was for practical purposes Indian. The comic told a different tale, to the distortions of storytelling, I could be shaped as anything—everything to everyone, which of course makes me feel like nothing.

I imagine up-and-coming Kirkland song writer, Perfume Genius, feels the same way whenever he is compared to Sufjan Stevens, the beloved singer-songwriter who conquered the indie world around 2005 and then suddenly vanished, producing only a few experimental classical compositions in the past five years.

Perfume Genius surely owes a debt to the Suf, his high warble and spacious folk trappings put him in Mr. Steven's Michigan era wheelhouse. For Sufjan fans then he becomes several contradicting things: he is simultaneously a salve for those attached to Sufjan's intimate pop and also a salt in the wound, reminding Sufjan's fans of what they're missing.



But when he goes to bed he is not Sufjan, he worries about different things, has had wildly different experiences—and that shows up in his songs. He less Sufjan lite, than diet cherry vanilla Dr. Pepper Sufjan—Perfume Genius expands the genre of Sufjan.

We tend to look down on this, and I suspect it's because the latest most popular instance was when Creed and Stone Temple Pilots made a genre out of Pearl Jam. Yes America, we suffered. However, Perfume Genius' songs conjure a totally different feeling. They make me miss Sufjan deeply, partially because of what he made, but mostly because of how he could have expanded. Sufjan might have made a song that aches and sways like Perfume Genius' willowy “Gay Angels.” Perfume Genius drapes his tenor over moody synth violins, capturing the winsome emotion of a Sufjan song while being distinct.

The winner is “Learning,” a catchy piano mope about abuse. Perfume Genius delicate and sparse harmonies are genuinely affecting. And maybe that's it, a copy cat band wouldn't make me feel this much right? Unless, of course, I told a story to myself in which they were not a copy cat band at all.

Perfume Genius plays the Vera project this Tuesday, March 9th


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