Porches The House

[Domino; 2018]

Styles: indie pop, dance pop, pbr&b
Others: Majical Cloudz, James Blake, Grimes

If the music video for “Find Me” serves as any indication, Aaron Maine’s latest affectation is meticulosity. The promo film for the first single, teased before the release of Porches’ newest record The House, finds its frontman preening before his bathroom mirror, carefully slicking back his bleach-blonde locks, scrutinizing his teeth for any dross, and perfecting a Jim Morrison-channeling gaze before traipsing around a shopping mall parking lot and later undulating on top of an underweighted workout bench. While on 2016’s Pool he greeted interpersonal travails with abidance and placid acquiescence, here on the group’s third album, the newly made-over Maine forgoes complacency and searches ardently for any modicum of control he can grasp.

Like so many dispirited twenty-something musicians, Maine grounds his struggle for autonomy in romantic dejection. “I don’t want it to be clean/ I just want you on my team,” he confesses on “Leave the House,” acknowledging his desperation for companionship and authority before elucidating the necessity for self-destruction: “Need it to be how I need/ So I burn out to be free.” Along with his preoccupation with emotional cleansing, Maine’s maudlin insistence on fidelity and personal agency comes across as no more a feint than Lana Del Rey’s trashy-opulent melodrama on Born to Die or David Longstreth’s self-important empathy on Dirty Projectors. And just like those artists, he’s forced to walk on the tentative footing of young adulthood whereby maturity arrives in arbitrary, unscrupulous measures. As a lyricist, Maine is still naive enough to wonder to his ephemeral paramour, “Can you make it light? Can you do no harm?” but wise enough to appreciate solitude as a virtue: “I’ll be fine once I’m alone.

Much like Ariel Pink, Porches examine the vapidity of nostalgia in music through an experimental lens, adopting a posture both ironic and celebratory. But while Pink’s bread and butter is the 1970s and 80s music of his childhood, Aaron Maine opts to retrofit the early-2000s dance music of his own youth, imposing a unique idiosyncratic bent. Tracks like “Anymore” and “Goodbye” crib the transfixing dancefloor seduction of Music-era Madonna in order to repurpose its groove as a soundtrack for loneliness. Elsewhere, on “Find Me,” Maine employs a driving-yet-wistful backing track reminiscent of the dance-pop benchmark “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” as he laments his self-imposed isolation. Although much of The House is a solipsistic exercise lyrically, with Maine locating grief and malaise in his insular lifestyle, the album’s personnel — which boasts credits such as (Sandy) Alex G, Dev Hynes, and BEA1991 — is a testament to the shared creative vision and artistic reference points that give each Porches record a consistent yet singular sound.

Austere without the compulsion of self-restraint and experimental without the drag of formlessness, The House confirms Porches’ primacy as indie-dance mavens. Situated somewhere within the lacuna between darkwave and dance pop, the album revels in nebulous genre distinctions, with Maine showing more interest in reimagining stylistic boundaries than expanding or eliminating them. To wit, Aaron Maine is either the antithesis or the apotheosis of present day indie music. His fastidious grooming practices and unabashed vanity can be taken as a reaction against the aggressive non-superficiality of his contemporaries or, conversely, as an embrace of the turn of the (21st-) century fashion that his windbreaker-clad, center-parting, billowy-clothed cohorts so adore. But just like his music, Maine has no interest in being so neatly categorized.

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