Porches, the musical project led by Aaron Maine, is known for genre bending indie rock with 80s inspired electronic. However, with his third LP Pool, we find Maine for better or worse, fully embracing more modern and mainstream electronic sounds.
The opening number “Underwater” pairs Maine’s distorted vocals with discomforting synths over a wobbly trap beat that would have been impressively forward thinking back in 2012. Unfortunately for Maine, much of the instrumental work on Pool follows this pattern of recycling popular sounds. Maine digs himself a hole that he can’t climb out of as he falls short on creating catchy melodies to compensate for the ordinary production on Pool.
Pool’s greatest strength is its careful attention to theme, as frequent visual references to being trapped underwater are complemented by lyrics dealing with isolation that Maine feeds through a vocoder. His artificially manipulated voice is tolerable on songs in which his partner Frankie Cosmos equalizes his ice cold delivery with her delicate backing vocals. Alternatively, when Maine is the only vocalist his degree of voice manipulation seems excessive and can be rather unpleasant. Nonetheless, it functions to intricately detail his sea of solitude. This is a place where shared human experiences exist only as a concept; the others that Maine is kept apart from are the vague shadowy forms that glide across the surface of the water.
The highlight of the album is arguably “Even The Shadow,” an innovative dream-pop number that salutes Arca with its wind instrument intro and also incorporates a brief jazz interlude, while its lyrics “I walk into the park beneath the sea” reinforce the album’s prevailing theme. “Shaver” similarly infuses jazz, this time by gracefully inserting it into a disco beat and then topping it off with some subtle off key notes of the Ryan Hemsworth variety. The other disco track “Glow,” however, is less memorable. Other weaker tracks include the title track as well as “Car,” the former blatantly mimics Daft Punk while the latter sounds like a throwaway by The Smiths.
The inclusion of too many dispensable songs ultimately sacrifices the poignancy of Pool. Eliminating the weaker tracks and releasing Pool as an EP would have been an appropriate way to address this issue without compromising the overall goals of the project.