Domino Recording Company · January 19, 2018
Songwriter Aaron Maine has been developing his project of Porches for five years now, transitioning from instrumentals of post rock guitar and drums in his first album to the atmospheric synth beats in his second. Now in this third album, Maine moves towards an even dreamier feeling by peeling the layers of instrumentals to just hazy beats and nebulous backing vocals. The House reiterates the feeling of being underwater like Pools did, but strips it back to make a “conscious effort at minimalism and honesty.” While Porches’ second album was garnered with praise for its full synth beats, this third album is the barest and most emotionally explicit. Maine specifically aimed for the rawness that the album expresses, noting that he conceived each song in entirety the day he wrote the lyrics in his journal. It’s candid, and when I listen to it, I feel I’m delving inside of the mind of Maine.
The cohesion of the album manifests from the lyrics. The first lyric of ‘Find Me’ follows the song ‘Leave the House’ with “I think that I’ll stay inside.” The song continues to express what Pools had been building: an emotional confession to the anxiety and paranoia that lives inside Maine’s head. The repeated water imagery throughout the album in songs like ‘Now the Water’ and ‘Swimmer’ also augments the narrative that is being conveyed here. It’s a feeling of sinking paired with a feeling of suspension, like when you’re about 10 feet under the surface of the water with the noise muffled and your limbs are weighed down to the bottom, but your chest begs to float upwards.
The song ‘Country’ acts as a breath of fresh air as it’s one of the sweeter, lighter songs one the album. Instrumentals that remind me of the soundtrack to Stranger Things (maybe why I like it so much) and with refreshing lyrics like “when the air hits my face” and “break the water with your arms,” ‘Country’ speaks in a young, innocent voice in a way that the rest of the album does not. At the end of the last song, ‘Anything U Want,’ there is a sample of recording from the outside world – people talking, possibly cars driving by, things moving, etc. It’s a nice, fuzzy ending that is probably the purest part of the whole album. For some reason, even though Maine takes us through the depths of his mind, his biggest fears and struggles, that last 30 seconds tells me that he’s finding his way through it all.
The problem with the whole of this album is that the first half of it makes the listener wait for something that never builds in the second half. The lyrics achieve the goal of emotional vulnerability and sincerity, but the minimalist instrumentals don’t provide much of a weight to carry it through the rest of album, leaving the songs thin at the waistline. Overall, I saw Maine’s thoughts more clearly than his first two albums. His confessions hold an honesty and rawness that cannot be ignored, and I commend him for that. However, when I step back and look at the big picture, The House falls flat in places where Pools never did, and at times the minimalist beats seemed less purposeful and more unfinished. This is the most successful album lyrically and emotionally, yet not instrumentally. But two out of three ain’t bad.