Early on his third record as Porches, The House, Aaron Maine outlines his rifting desires: “I don’t wanna leave you out/I just wanna leave the house.” Though the debate is seemingly simple (the classic “should I stay or should I go” scenario), at the crux of the sentiment is an urgent need to exit the comfort of domesticity and be one’s own person. The House is driven by this urge to step back and reconcile with oneself. Whether examining identity through a relationship, nostalgia, or isolation, the key to unlocking The House is the conscious act of renewal.
Unlike 2013’s rollicking indie rock crusher Slow Dance in the Cosmos or the lush synth-pop of 2016’s Pool, Porches’ third record is a conscious effort in minimalism and honesty. “While making Pool I learned how valuable the spirit of the demos are,” says Aaron, “so for The House I made a point to try and capture the song the day it was conceived.” He recorded only for “keeps” and initially limited himself to a 4-track as a means of committing individual songs. Though he would later rework the arrangements, Aaron focused intensely on recording the essence of the song, embracing the imperfections of some of the performances in hopes of putting forward something more honest. Though Aaron largely composes on his own, The House features contributions by Alexander Giannascoli (Alex G), Dev Hynes (Blood Orange), Maya Laner (True Blue, Porches), Kaya Wilkins (Okay Kaya), Bryndon Cook (Starchild & the New Romantic), Cameron Wisch (Cende, Porches), Jason Arce, Bea1991, and his own father, Peter Maine. As with Pool, Aaron brought his recorded work to Chris Coady (Beach House, Slowdive, TV on the Radio), who then mixed The House at his Sunset Sound studio.
In accordance with the raw recording process, The House finds Aaron saying less with more intention. Because of his urgent desire to document immediate sensations, The House’s fourteen tracks offer a series of diaristic vignettes. There are moments of emerging from fear of ego death (“Leave the House,” “By My Side,” “Now The Water”), escaping the corporeal (“Now The Water,” “Swimmer”), the terrifying thrill of young love (“Country,” “W Longing”), and parting with the past (“Wobble,” “Goodbye”). As on Pool, images of water suggesting salvation at every turn: “Think I’ll go/Somewhere else/Where I can sink/Into myself” (“Find Me”); “can you make it right/can you do no harm/break the water with your arms” (“Country”); “This cold pool/Glowing against the night/Is the only thing/I believe is right” (“ W Longing”).
While these themes possibly paint The House in a dark light, the record is marked by an excitement at the prospect of self-discovery, and commitment to the process of getting there. “Find Me,” for example, touches on anxiety and isolation, but is put forward as an icy dance track where one might be able to celebrate those two emotions. The same paradox can be found in “Goodbye,” a piano track Aaron wrote after taking a solo trip to his hometown. Though it is initially a melancholy reflection of youth’s ephemerality, the chorus’ image of slipping into a lake invokes the beauty that sometimes accompanies the act of letting go. “Now The Water” also features one of The House’s most affecting images: “Red clutch farm kid not making a sound.” As Aaron explains it, the image is of a rural adolescent who sneaks out into a field at night. Only then, lying there alone while the world sleeps, do they truly feel in touch with themselves. This idea of being fully oneself is the ultimate state of liberation, and with The House, Aaron Maine creeps closer to realizing that goal for himself.