The debut album of Mike Hadreas, aka Perfume Genius, couldn’t be more different than his later albums if it tried. Recorded in his own home, “Learning” has a distinct, lo-fi sound to it that recalls older works like PJ Harvey’s “Rid of Me,” which gives the album a sound that is both instantly dated and compellingly muddled: One needs to lean in to hear the lyrics, all of which deal with loneliness, anger, heartbreak, and social outrage in clever, meaningful ways. With songs like “Lookout, Lookout,” “Mr. Peterson” and the titular track, the album ends up standing out as one of the strongest debut records I’ve heard, as well as the performer’s own signature masterpiece.
Rating: ★★★★★ (out of 5)