Album Review: Porches - Pool

Album Reviews
02/07/2016
Gerrit Feenstra

You'd be hard pressed to find a list of 2016's most anticipated albums without Porches on it. The moniker of New York's Aaron Maine and friends makes its Domino debut this year with Pool, a record that sounds and feels like a breakout ready to happen. Here, Maine ditches the lo-fi indie rock basement sounds of his past records for a highly refined pop statement. Blending a plethora of styles all topped with his crystalline voice, Maine is an easy sell. Pool is a record you want to dive into over and over again. Porches have made their Domino debut one that you won't soon forget.

Though its only been two years since the last Porches full length, Pool has been a long time coming in more ways than not. Aaron Maine has been cranking out lo-fi magic as Porches since 2011, many recordings of which feature Frankie Cosmos and a whole gang of similar rising talent out of New York. But it wasn't until Porches' 2014 Terrible Records single "Prism" that we really got a chance to see Maine in a refined light. And it wasn't just the bigger budget production either - with "Prism" and "Forgive", it felt like Maine stepped into a bigger chapter of his career. Herein, we saw a songwriter with a vision for sculpture. Here, the songs were tighter, the transitions stronger, the chord progressions richer and more unexpected. With all of it, there was no question that whatever came next would be Maine's best work yet, and with Pool, there can be no question that this is the center stage statement that will make him a regular name of 2016.

Thematically, Pool is a logical maturation from Slow Dancing In The Cosmos. Where his 2013 LP was caught up in young lust, party drugs, and flippant spirituality, Pool is weighted by the tangible. Even braving similar topics and motifs, Maine never seems to let himself leave the ground completely, and the gravity puts him in a higher weight class. It's not that Maine is opting for simplicity as much as he's being allowing himself a healthy dose of concrete honesty. Take "Car" for instance, a soaring new wave ode to the freedoms of driving down the road and escaping all the tethers of reality, if only for an hour or two. Porches haven't left the cosmos - they are just a lot more comfortable describing them from the surface of the earth. By the end of the record, "Security" echoes a sentiment that pretty much anyone can relate with. And yet, even while making the declaration, Maine doesn't feel like he's working conservatively - this is the best stuff he's put forward yet, and he knows it.

Musically, Pool is a direct continuation of his material on Terrible, where lush new wave production has taken precedent over lo-fi quirk. Maine is far from leaving the guitars behind, but the diversity of the arrangements on Pool show that he has far more to offer than basement minimalism (prime example: that fantastic sax solo on "Shaver"). It's here that he really shows off a bravery and an extroversion that hasn't been seen on prior Porches releases. Producer Chris Coady also lends a fair amount of help in achieving the sonic goals that Maine had in mind here. Unlike the occasionally meandering Cosmos, Pool feels like a very finished product. It's a record you want on your shelf for all of the foreseeable future, for good times and bad.

Pool is out this week through Domino Recordings. Grab it at your local record store on CD or vinyl. Porches will tour in support of the new record alongside Domino label-mate Alex G, who recently released his new record, Beach Music. The two will take to the Vera Project on March 25. Get tickets here.

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