Porches - Pool

by Justin Pearson Rating:8 Release Date:2016-02-05

Aaron Maine's music as Porches is described as "dark muscle" on the band's social media pages. This could be in reference to the taut, nighttime vibe that colors sophomore album Pool or Maine's troubled, soaking wet heart that drips with his many relationship qualms. A few other adjectives that center around this bleeding organ show up on the song 'Braid' - "shaky", "blue" and "strange" - lead one to believe the latter is more accurate as the album's calling card and path to understanding its concerns.

Pool's water is slippery, reflecting its surrounding construct of fluid-like love. However, while there's uncertainty throughout Maine's lyrics, there's a masterful precision in composition and execution that keeps the album from sinking into the mire of a woe-is-me approach. He might not know what he's doing with his personal life, but he sure knows how to articulate his feelings.

Musically, the album is basic in terms of instrumentation and melody. Where it shines is in its knowledge of how to bend, twist and expand, opening the songs wider than their structural parts should logically allow. A perfect example of this is 'Shape' with its wobbly synth giving support to the frustration and longing of both Maine's vocals and lyrics: "And for all the shapes that we get into/ Only wanna be in them with you/ I'm only real in my longing/ And I long to be so real."

On the earlier mentioned 'Braid', his staggered vocals highlight the pause-like beating of his heart: "And it was as if I was watching it all through - a - vide - o - camera/ So shaky and blue, I've got a dark muscle too pumping the same - strange - blood - running - through ya."

Throughout, it also feels cleanly cut from a material that lends itself to a sharp definition without any jagged edges. Opener 'Underwater' highlights this with a sensual, deliberate pacing. It's similar to the way The XX strips their music down to only what's necessary, thereby heightening the latent potency. The song's final two minutes swooningly succumb to a driving bass and reverbed vocals that instantly cause goosebumps every time you hear it: "I really wanna make it so right/ For us to belong to the night/ Just falling apart/ I lit one up and I drove around/ Just wondering what you're doing now/ We could fall apart."

Album centerpiece 'Hour' is full of careful restraint, with bubbly bass that's released in metronomic spurts before abruptly stopping to make way for chiming synths that drip like icicles. Additional vocals by Frankie Cosmos help to make this track the standout that it is. "In my loner hour/ I turn to my twin bed for power/ And like a swimming pool/ Even alone it gets me wet and cool/ Oh how I float just wondering about her." Pining for a lover has never been so achingly felt or visualized. 

Common themes of relationship struggles show up in almost every song, proving that Maine has run the gamut of emotions when it comes to love: Confusion/uncertainty ('Be Apart'), pride ('Glow'), escape ('Car'), and submission ('Shaver').

'Security' works fittingly as the album closer, summing up all of Maine's misgivings and frustrations in one simple wish: "Man I wish there was a place/ That I knew I could always stay/ Cause all I want and all I need is some security." With the hopeful, melodic swells between verses, though, it leaves you feeling like he'll be okay.

Pool abandons the guitars of Porche's debut Slow Dance in the Cosmos for crisp synthesizers, touches of autotune and an aesthetic that feels like a nod to an 80s nostalgia. Whether the latter is intentional or not, Maine appears to be growing as an artist - and lover - while still utilizing the past to inform his forward-developing art. Drenched with purposeful, searching vocals, this is clean, solid synth pop that seeks an emotional grandeur in naked simplicity and not only finds it, but claims it as an emblem.

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