Courtney Recommends: “Describe” by Perfume Genius

I’m drawn to songs that feel like emotional glimpses into another place, songs that I can envision an entire universe inside of, if even for a couple of minutes. “Describe,” the lead single from Perfume Genius’ upcoming Set My Heart on Fire Immediately is certainly one. From the onset, the song hits the listener in the face with layers of sunny, twanging guitars. As Mike Hadreas’ dream-like crooning enters, the listener is treated to a hazy description of a place out of time. The song ends with two minutes of ethereal, ambient electronic droning as Hadreas whispers beneath. It’s beautiful.

Maybe I can describe it for you.

No bells anymore.

The rental car thermometer registers in the mid-90s as my partner and I drive through the American southwest. We are both native to the humid forests of Ohio, and so the dry desert air, the absence of trees, the way the strange clouds race one another across the saturated sky, the mountains kissing the middle of the troposphere in the distance, the flatness for miles on either side of an endless highway are all so unfamiliar to us as to feel otherworldly.

The lock on the door is barely holding.

The little rental meanders ever closer to the foot of what was once an ancient volcano. The wheels splash red water onto signs warning of mountainous terrain ahead. I cover my eyes with a scarf as my partner maneuvers up steep ascents, around sharp, guardrail-less turns.

An echo in the canyon.

We make it to the cabin at the summit, just as the sun hides behind the edge of the neighboring mesa in front of us. We crack open celebratory cans in the gloaming and observe that the sound booms in this place so quiet, echoes through the canyon below like a stone skipped across the river we grew up on the banks of.

I hold my jacket closed in the sudden chill as my partner and I both turn our heads to the sky — only to see a fireball meteor softly surf the edge of the mesa, hear its flame fizzle out. Mouths agape in awe, we spend the next hour craning our heads to the heavens as meteors dance across the Milky Way.

(Song recommendation by Courtney Skaggs)

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