From the very first moments of Pool, Aaron Maine’s fourth full length under the moniker Porches, you get the immediate sense that you are in for something very different from Maine. Pool is a step in a new direction for Porches, far removed from the acoustic-driven bedroom pop of albums like Scrap and Love Songs Revisited or the fuzzed-out pop tunes of Je T’aime. And yet, Pool does not feel entirely foreign; Maine has always had an affinity for drum machines, and 2013’s Slow Dance in the Cosmos had a number of tracks driven by warm synth lines rather than bouncy guitar licks.
It feels as if there is a bit of self-actualization going on with this album, a sense of comfort and confidence in the songwriting. You can tell that this is truly the music Maine wants to be making, and although the songwriting itself may be more confident there is still a sense of intimacy and vulnerability in the lyricism and the soft crooning vocals winding their way over the grooves.
It is this characteristic croon that still remains the centerpiece of the songs on Pool. Although the instrumentation and grooves are incredibly engaging, the songs truly revolve around Maine’s vocal delivery. He carefully dissects the emotions he feels, rather than simply stating that he is feeling them. Although the feelings he is dissecting may be subtle and complex, his delivery is very plainspoken. He touches upon his body, feeling safe and comfortable, being alone, trying to be there for others, and (in true Morrissey fashion) tries to talk himself into leaving the house to go out and have some fun for at least one night.
Pool’s 12 tracks clock in at about 40 minutes, making it the longest Porches album to date. The songs are spread out very well, giving the album a very natural ebb and flow. Album opener “Underwater” is a mellow, RnB tinged tune with wavering synths and a driving bass line; a soft but successful introduction that eases the listener into the album, letting them know just what to expect from Pool without blindsiding them.
Immediately following “Underwater” is the more upbeat dance track “Braid” which serves to build up energy and give way to the one-two punch of “Be Apart” and “Mood”, two of the most standout tracks on the album. This pattern of pairing stronger tracks together is repeated later in the album with “Glow” and “Car”. While the other songs on the album are not necessarily weaker than these pairings, they are mellower and are able to stand on their own. This structuring gives the album a very back and forth pull, rising and falling in pacing, emotion, and energy.
Through sax solos, harmonies, pop hooks, and drops, Pool is a transformative album that sees Maine venturing into new territory. While not entirely innovative or overly creative as far as electronic driven music goes, it still manages to be interesting and engaging. The songs are incredibly heartfelt, emotive, and if nothing else overwhelmingly catchy. Porches has taken a huge leap forward and I can only hope that it pays off.
Words by Dan Manning