By Jamie McNamara
VANCOUVER – Aaron Maine’s best songs as Porches are about being alone. His 2016 sophomore album, Pool, was a nuanced examination of loneliness filtered through some of the catchiest pop music in recent memory. The House, his third album, deals with many of the same themes, but where Pool felt like an introspective bedroom record, The House expands outwards into anthemic synth pop that exudes emotional catharsis.
In many ways, The House could be a slog of an album, but it’s a rare record that feels both personal and populist. As Maine sings about self-isolation and retreats within, he manages to never exclude the listener from these moments.
On the album’s second single “Find Me,” Maine embraces the healing powers of solitude: “Think I’ll go / Somewhere else / Where I can sink / Into myself / Just watch me go / Just watch me go,” he sings overtop clanging cymbals and a ‘90s bass organ that syncopates with the song’s 4/4 kick drum. It’s not often that dancefloor-ready songs start off a verse with “Touch my neck and walk me home / And I’ll be fine once I’m alone,” but here, it works perfectly.
On “Anymore,” Maine returns to the wobbling auto-tuned vocals that felt so out of place on Pool, but now they sound like a tasteful artistic decision. In several places on The House, Maine covers his impressive singing voice with robotic auto-tune that sounds like Cher’s “Believe” for the hipster set. It’s a stylistic choice that won’t win everyone over, but it works to disembody Maine’s voice in ways that are often quite intriguing.
Late album highlight “Goodbye” finds Maine sinking away again, but this time it’s from an ending relationship: “I feel it move, I feel it ache / It’s sad to see how much you changed / I’ll slip into a cold lake / now I just feel it slip away.” He doesn’t wallow long, though, as the song bursts into major key chord stabs and thumping drums before its three minutes is up.
Maine began working on The House right after completing Pool, and the records tend to feel like they were made with the same sonic palate. “W Longing” feels the most like a leftover from Pool, but it’s a welcome addition to The House, where its instantaneous melody and pleading chorus (“Tell me what you want to hear / I want you to hear it / Tell me what you want to feel / you know I want you near it”) make it one of the strongest songs in the Porches catalog.
In The House, Maine makes chintzy euro house sound like high art. It’s as though Alice DJ packed her bags and moved to Bushwick. There’s no one making music quite like this right now, and it’s hard to imagine anyone doing it any better if they tried.
Yet The House isn’t without its flaws. It is a record that can feel maddeningly sparse at times. Rarely do songs cross the three-minute mark, and, while every song that does is fantastic, it makes the one- and two-minute tracks feel like interludes that aren’t needed. Admittedly, it’s a minor gripe, but it’s hard not to think how much more affecting this record would be with a little more flow.
Still, even with its minor flaws, The House is a must-listen record that is as affecting as synth-based music gets.