“No family is safe when I sashay,” announced Mike Hadreas, under the moniker Perfume Genius, this summer with the release of his brilliant, scintillating single “Queen.” Hide your kids, hide your wife, hide your hard-cover copies of the NAS report—because on his latest album “Too Bright,” Hadreas emerges from his bedroom to prance saucily down the catwalk. 
His previous efforts, 2010’s intimate “Learning” and 2012’s intense “Put Your Back N 2 It,” felt cloistered and claustrophobic, but “Too Bright” shines with a defiant radiance. In the past, voice cracking and spirit shaking, Hadreas sang about having an affair in high school with a teacher who then threw himself off a building. Now, still haunted, he offers no apology.
“I Decline,” the record’s opener, sets this tone with its lyrics of modest refusal. He describes an angel hovering overhead, arms extended in a welcoming embrace, warm smile plastered on its face. It’s a nice image, but Hadreas is in no mood for otherworldly support. He considers the offer for a moment over spare piano chords, and finally murmurs, “that’s all right. I decline.” 
From this Majical Cloudz-like moment, Hadreas does an about face and channels his inner Freddie Mercury on “Queen.” The power-chord thrust, tingling synths, and hip-shaking gutturals certainly recall Queen the band, but “Queen” the song retains Hadreas’ trademark discomfiting lyrics. “Don’t you know your queen?” he asks, no coincidence that it sounds very much like “don’t you know you’re queer?” 
Decay features prominently in “Too Bright.” Internalized shame becomes corrosive, as Hadreas’ damaged soul eats away at its cage. 
On “No Good,” Hadreas wonders if he is “meant to fray to the end” as his body unravels, leaving no place to hang his heart. Not one to give in so easily, he turns the decay into a dare: “I wear my body like a rotted peach / You can have it if you can handle the stink.” 
The spooky, spidery lurch of “My Body” makes it one of the best dance songs on the album, all the more when it explodes halfway through into the best synth pulse Depeche Mode never wrote.
The true centerpiece of “Too Bright,” however, is the soul-swinging, thumb-snapping ode to love-induced idiocy, “Fool.” Hadreas croons to an anonymous lover about picking out a dress for the night, before flitting out of the room to dance. 
The song fades almost to silence before the synth grows stronger, and Hadreas lets out a swelling gasp of ecstasy, like a fool in love who can’t believe his luck. He sounds more assured for the rest of the song, helped along by the sexy sputter of a sax, when he “does a little move...like a buffoon.” 
At once self-deprecating and self-accepting, “Fool” showcases all of Perfume Genius’ strengths: his evocative lyrics, impeccable arrangement, and tight sequencing. Most of all, it highlights just how powerful of a singer Hadreas is, his voice shimmering and glimmering, as much Jónsi as Antony. “Fool” is not only fluttery and precise, but also firm and proud, a balance Hadreas maintains perfectly throughout the album.
On “Too Bright,” Perfume Genius proves he is deserving of the eponym. He is able to distance himself from the camp of disco music while drawing on the aesthetic of othered musicians who turned the marginal mainstream. 
But Hadreas does not write gay anthems in the vein of the Village People. The introversion of being raised as the ugly duckling of chillwave’s final brood still shows on “Too Bright.” Like Youth Lagoon before him, Hadreas takes bedroom experiences and blows them up into arena-sized stories. 
If there’s a manifesto for what “humanity” means in 2014, it’s the message of this record—we’re all a little hurt and a little beautiful. Hadreas claims he is “Too Bright,” but we can’t look away.