Before 2016, the New York one-man band known as Porches was basically a folkish, lo-fi, Indie Rock project, with some decent tunes in their discography, then, out of the blue, singer Aaron Maine chose to radically change Porches’ sound and released Pool, an album that was almost “guitarless”, relying mostly on synths, bass guitar, and drum machine. And, yes, this corny premise could be the basis for many recent and disappointing Indie Rock albums, but this was not the case.
Even if it could have been easily (and rightfully) considered a product of the 80’s revival, there was something in Pool that made it rise above many other works born in the very same cultural climate: its mesmeric slowness. Except for “Bride”, it is in fact rather difficult to dance or jump to any of the album. Its wet, House-y sound could have made you wave at most while listening to a bleached guy divided between the desire of being “a part” of something (a relationship, maybe), and his inescapable inclination to be “apart” from everything and everyone. It was a simple yet brilliant record, atmospheric to the point of being able to really drag you on the side of this imaginary pool, where the sun was always setting and the water surface became a mirror where you could finally look at yourself with intimacy.
Two years later, Maine is back with Porches’ third full-length, “The House”, and, instead of leaving “Pool”’s synthetic music palette behind, he decided to recover some of the lo-fi elements of Slow Dancing In The Cosmos and mix them up with the sound he achieved with the last album. The record’s first two tracks sound like a direct follow-up to Pool, both musically and lyrically, and yet they somehow feel different. “Leave The House” opens up with label-mate Alex G’s backing falsetto vocals and turns into a groovy slow-dance jam, about the desire of leaving “the house”, a well known place that just doesn’t feel right anymore but also a metaphor for a relationship with a lover Maine is not able to still love properly, and “find something to think about”. “Find Me” instead takes a less subtle approach and set everything on fire from the very start with its catchy house rhythm, its synthetic trumpet, and the autotuned vocals, while developing furthermore the theme of isolation and the searching of a place “where I can sink into myself”.
As said, both of these tracks are close to Pool in terms of sound and lyrics, but their production is less obsessive, less polished, and this gives them a more dynamic touch, which immediately evokes the lo-fi attitude that was behind Slow Dancing In The Cosmos. Moving forward in the listening it is easy to realize that this peculiar choice affects not only the album’s sound but its own structure, which often interchanges the more energetic tracks with brief, rawly recorded interludes. These tracks not only enrich the album’s complexity, introduce different instruments and different ways of singing and recording, also open up spaces where the memory floats, and the tension that comes from exploring the consequence of isolation is temporarily set at ease. So, after yet another sad House-yy piece of music, “Anymore”, in which Maine imagines to talk with a lover he has left behind, comes “Wobble”, a guitar interlude where Aaron’s clean voice suddenly curls, followed by an another high-pitch, autotuned vocal track, as he evokes, with melancholia, the beauty of a simple, daily action like lying in the bed with the person you love, which, sadly, he is not able to do anymore and thus, he “leave[s] the house.”
Unfortunately, many of the others tracks on the record do not show the same will to develop Porches’ sound further, and although they not spoil the record’s flow or its concept, inevitably sounds like take-off from Pool, offering no real newness to the listener’s ear, except, of course, from the interludes, “Leave The House”, “Find Me” and “Ono”, in which Maine makes a brilliant use of the autotune and irregular synthetic percussions.
For this very reason, The House feels like a transition record, with some good ideas that have yet to fully blossom, maybe due to the fact that they are filtered through old sounds, that while not always thrilling the listener it has indeed some touching moments and he is able to build an interesting narration trough contrast of fast and slow tempos, and thus gives us hope for a further growth from Porches in the future.