Review: The House

In a recent interview with Vice, Aaron Maine said that his latest album, The House, released under the name Porches, is an album about comfort with oneself.

Departing from his previous album, 2016’s Pool, Maine’s overwrought and polished mix of indie inclinations and dance-leaning production gave way to this year’s The House. With each song finished the day it was conceived, this album is an authentic, if sometimes sloppy, expression of Maine’s emotions throughout the recording of this album. Many songs retain an almost demo-like quality, emphasizing Maine’s message.

The House’s atmosphere teeters on a fine balance of stark, lonely introspection and a lush, bass-heavy hopefulness for the future. The instrumentation often starts out cold, with Maine singing softly over sparse synths until the warmer, dance-oriented sounds kick in. Songs like “Anymore” evolve from beginning to end,  going from Maine singing over a mere drum loop during the first verse, to horns dominating the track shortly after.

In contrast, shorter, more understated interludes like “Understanding,” where Maine’s father sings, or “Åkeren,” where Maine himself sings in Norwegian, populate the tracklist. These interludes are enjoyable in small quantity, but they make up almost a third of the album and ultimately do little more than distract from the longer, more fleshed out tracks like the warm and hazy “Find Me,” which is straddled by two short, less thought-out tracks. Ultimately, these smaller tracks take the spotlight off the show-stopping moments and put it on unimportant moments.

When it comes to Maine’s sonic contemporaries 22, A Million and Farewell, Starlite! by Bon Iver and Francis and the Lights, respectively, with all three albums mixing electronic expression and indie singing sensibilities.

The use of autotune interspersed with sparse atmospheric pads is most reminiscent of Bon Iver’s tasteful electronic construction of his folk roots and the more robust moments are most akin to Francis and the Lights’ climactic synth solos. A sense of soft vulnerability pervades The House and its largely due to the quiet autotuned singing filling the vast sonic quiet spaces that exist on this album. On the other hand, more exciting moments are dotted around with synth and bass heavy dance tracks that are somehow still as emotionally affecting as the more quiet, despairing tracks.

On both sonic sides of the album, Maine’s lyrics and subject matter remain consistent in mood. Oftentimes, he’s singing to himself, often about vague “its” that are just outside of the audience’s realm of comprehension. The mood, however, is clear–Maine is figuratively stuck in his own head. With his lyrics going in circles, songs like “Find Me” give the listener a look into Maine’s mindstate, where he repeats motifs like “I’ll be fine once I’m alone/Just don’t let it find me.”

Maine’s effort with The House is a quiet one. He focuses his efforts on expressing himself not with a shout but with a whisper. While the genre of synthpop seems inherently directly opposed to the idea of quiet music, Maine does it, and the result is a lean, smooth-edged project that sounds good played loudly on speakers, but is also enjoyable low in your earbuds while on a walk.