On ‘The House’, Aaron Maine attempts to hone in on the simple-minded yet charmingly authentic and relatable elements that made ‘Pool’ an enjoyable listen. Sadly, this might not have been the best approach.
Aaron Maine aka Porches, another in a line of hip suburban kids to make an unsubtle progression from electric guitar music to synth-based bops in search of authenticity long-lost, has released the follow-up to Pool, his critically acclaimed original 2016 foray into melancholic synth-pop. On The House, Maine makes use of wannabe Bon Iver vocoder effects, the occasional Foals-on-sedatives guitar riff, and that god-awful filtered marimba synthesizer that seems to have plagued modern pop music for the past five years or so (seriously, it needs to die), in an attempt to hone in on the simple-minded, yet charmingly authentic and relatable elements that made Pool an enjoyable listen. Sadly, this might not have been the best approach.
Part of what made Pool a surprisingly enjoyable and calming listen was a sense of camaraderie it evoked through honest (if nothing else) musings on the mundane mind-wanderings of this kind of average dude and his immediate group of pals. This, tacked on to minimalistic but excellent dreamy production, made songs like ‘Underwater’ and ‘Be Apart’ instantly memorable and, sometimes, almost touching. In contrast, on The House, Maine’s continuing search of the profound in the mundane in self-imposed solitude, seems awfully inauthentic. Hearing the results, one might question if taking a clinical approach and coldly analysing your own lyrics when what made them good in the first place is simple-minded authenticity is inherently detrimental. Somehow, sentiments like “Think I’ll go / Somewhere else / Where I can sink / Into myself” when put against with the aforementioned musical devices never sound quite as impactful as “I wanna be apart / I wanna be a part / Of it all” which was trying so much less hard.
Musically, The House really does try to be more adventurous than its predecessor, but seemingly lacking any knowledge of actually effective and ground-breaking synth-pop canon, it just comes off as scattered and random. Take for example the last ten or so seconds of ‘Now The Water’, in which the song decides that it wants to end its somewhat prolonged listening experience on Kevin Parker’s broken toy synthesizer. Why? Reading Maine’s interviews, you’d kind of get the sense that it’s for some greater ‘meta’ character-based narrative he’s trying desperately to weave through the album, but none of it comes through the music. And even more sadly, that’s not to say that Maine’s is necessarily incapable of getting across what he’s seemingly trying to do. The single ‘Country’, with its close-up vocal production, simplicity, and brevity, is about as close to “profound in the mundane” as the album gets, and it’s pretty close.
It’s difficult listening to The House and then trying not to think of Pool as a good-by-accident fluke. The occasional decent musical moment here and there, such as ‘Country’, certainly helps, but overall it seems like Maine is trying to keep it real way too hard, which, in the end, completely defeats the purpose of the exercise. One might only hope for him to realise that self-imposed societal exile does not inherently make you profound, and neither do poor renditions of Imogen Heap. (4/10) (Ellie Wolf)
Listen to The House by Porches here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!
Tags: Aaron Maine, album, Domino, Ellie Wolf, Porches, review, The House
Currently studying Mathematics and Music at Leeds University. Generally a fan of all things musical, cultural, and pretentious. Values aesthetic way too much.
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