Porches – ‘The House’ Review

Score

On his third album, Aaron Maine hones the synth-backed introspection of 2016's 'Pool'

Isolation, introspection and water metaphors defined Porches’ second album, 2016’s ‘Pool’. On first listen to his third record, it might seem that the past two years have changed the newly bleach-blonde, earringed man behind Porches more than they have the music. But listen more closely, and you realise that New York’s Aaron Maine has noticeably sharpened the vision of his synthpop solo project.

‘The House’ seeks clarity in simplicity. Maine wanted to preserve the “spirit of demos” and “capture [each] song the day it was conceived”. Possibly as a result, its several shorter tracks – quasi-interludes – often last no more than two minutes. The technique turns the album into a collection of tangible emotional snapshots, brief but telling entries in a musical journal. “You know how it makes me feel,” he notes moodily on ‘By My Side’, “when you talk to me like that”.

Much of the lyrical content is deceptively basic, but it’s considered, so as to be universal: “I would tell you if I knew what I needed you to do”, he mourns on the depressive midtempo opener ‘Leave The House’, “but I can’t see through the blue.” As Maine told Dazed last year, “I focus on the simple shit that everyone goes through… You can only have so many bombastic experiences to write intense songs about.”

Faring best from this newfound minimalism is the diminutive lead single ‘Country’, a prime example of Maine’s self-assured brevity. Presented to the world alongside an introductory poem, this hypnotising Dev Hynes collaboration houses four clean-cut verses of tangible sensory observations: “When the air hit my face / And it smelled like the truth / I saw you in the lake”. It’s sparse but hugely evocative.

Elsewhere, Maine couches his melancholy in coolly upbeat electro (‘Find Me’, ‘Anymore’, ‘Goodbye’) and here finds a Robyn-esque emotional dichotomy well worth exploring further. But it’s actually ‘Ono’ – one of the album’s few guitar-led tracks – that evokes the album’s spirit best. Over a distorted fingerpicked guitar line, Maine reflects, “In the night, I feel clean, when the darkness swallows me / I escape from the blue like the steam coming off the pool”. At times like these, Maine makes you feel it all.