In Pool, Aaron Maine seems to be drowning. Emotionally restrained lyrics painting tales of mysterious figures named Franklin and fast cars rise up from his mouth to greet the surface, swimming hand in hand with soothingly synthetic pop arrangements, yet stopping before they get there. Maine doesn’t make it clear whether he wants to be pulled out or not; his latest release under New York artistic moniker Porches is just as intimate as it is distant.
With his voice, Maine lends a velvet mash of David Bazan and early Chris Martin as a slow-dance accompaniment to the heaving synths that make Pool so powerful. Porches’ Facebook page describes them as “dark muscle”. Whilst this may seem like some kind of inside joke, tracks like Be Apart make that sound far less ridiculous than it seems. While Maine employs extensive water metaphor in Pool’s lyricism, tight snares and pulsating 80’s-esque synths give the impression of a living muscle in Porches’ music, just as quick to punch you in the face with night driving track ‘Only The Shadow’ as it is to gently flex its capabilities in bubbling highlight ‘Mood’.
Consequently, ‘Mood’ is one of the few tracks in which the influence of Frankie Cosmos wunderkind Greta Kline is in plain sight. Kline has in the past played bass for Porches, and makes a triumphant return in tracks such as ‘Mood’ and ‘Hour’ to lend her pleasantly twee backing vocals and bass guitar talents to the album’s repertoire. Her features bring the band’s sound back to that of its more guitar-centric “indie” releases, a sweet refrain from the dark chillwave haunt that Pool offers. If Porches are indeed underwater for this LP, Kline brings the breezier moments of head-above-water fresh air.
Lyrically, Pool perhaps lacks the depth that Porches have previously flaunted in releases such as 2013’s ‘Slow Dance in the Cosmos’. Although Maine toys with the titular pool metaphor, his lines seem restrained, missing some of the imagery of cityscape intimacy and spatial exploration he has previously employed. This restraint matches that of his voice; in the past Maine’s most enthusiastic track performances have had a lot of emotional smack to them, slight raspy edges on shouts and soaring notes that have been smoothed out like so many wrinkles in the fabric of this album. That isn’t necessarily a negative, though. Whilst Maine’s direction has turned from expressing the sweet gutter sounds of the city to those of chlorine-infused private pools, he retains a beautiful energy that makes Pool an excellent pop record and a hallmark of great things to come.
All in all, Maine has explored New York before, but the city’s flooded now; Pool is a pulsing echo from beneath the surface.