Porches – ‘Ricky Music’ review: low-key synth-pop that’s low on commercialism but high on self-belief

You get the sense that Aaron Maine has countless synth-pop bangers inside him, but instead he opts for tasteful bursts of colour amid the understatement

Since the last time we heard from Aaron Maine of Porches, he’s spent some time holed up in his New York apartment, immersing himself in his emotions and creating more low-key electronic ballads. In the space of a decade, this project has consistently delivered raw and understated synth-pop. The sounds reflects his ‘look’; it’s glossy and glamorous. Luckily it’s also incredibly compelling.

2018’s ‘The House’, his third album, delivered colourful, vibrant pop while showcasing an intimate internal dialogue about seeking clarity of your own emotions. Maine recently said of his creative process: “My aim is to swim to the bottom of myself and find the most beautiful and strange things I can offer.” He’s essentially put the magnifying glass on this concept with latest record ‘Ricky Music’, and although the production is rich and textured, it also feels less polished here, as though he’s thrown his thoughts and feeling straight into the laptop.

Maine’s mournful vocal leads the way on opener ‘Patience’, evoking a sense of struggle and dogged self-belief. “Cause I’m rooting for you / And I’m rooting for me / And I’m rooting for that baby”, he sings, alluding to a complicated relationship over poignant and dramatic synths. The accompanying video depicts Aaron being pelted with basketballs, through which he battles to the other side of a gym; it’s a smart reference to his resolve to deal with everything life throws his way.

None of these synth-pop songs are longer than they need to be. This album is like a well-kept diary, neat entries playing part of a much bigger picture. Things continue in this vein with ‘Do U Wanna’ and ‘Lipstick Song’, which further explore the minimal and spacious electro sound.

You get the sense that Maine has as many sultry synth-pop bangers inside him as he pleases but, while he’s capable of dominating a more mainstream territory, he refuses to indulge in such temptations. Instead he’s taken the road less travelled, carefully placing his honey-sweet lines and choosing the moments to excite the senses musically. The occasional hard-hitting synth brings to mind something between the sounds of Stranger Things and Twin Peaks.

Still, Porches knows when to cut loose. There’s a shiny glamour to the Italo-disco synths throughout, which peak on the ’80s-influenced ‘I Wanna Ride’. “Each day the night falls,” he sings, “I stare at the moon ’til my eyes get so messed up / I can almost see you”. This is swiftly followed by the minimal acid-rave sounds of ‘Madonna’. It feels like the album has been building to this pivotal moment of release.

Whether he continues to be a minimal outlier like friend and collaborator (Sandy) Alex G, or makes a bolder move towards the limelight with his next step, you get the feeling that Aaron Maine isn’t a man who’ll make concessions to the mainstream. This effort is a bold step that shows no compromise on the horizon.

Details

Release date: March 13

Record label: Domino

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