Dancing to Anxiety — A review of “The House” by Porches

“Wonder if you want to stay // or if it’s easier that way,” Aaron Maine cries out over some of the punchiest drums such a line has ever been sang over. His band, Porches, released their third studio album, The House, in January. The record features a series of minimalist pop tunes, with catchy hooks, danceable beats, and themes of self-isolation and anxiety. The opener, perhaps my favorite track of 2018 thus far, “Leave the House,” quoted earlier, tackles feelings of anxiety around a relationship; feelings that Aaron is putting in less than he is giving back, feelings that his relationship is unbalanced.

Before breaking into Aaron’s vocals over a duo of synthesizer and drum machine, the track begins with an eerie vocal harmony by (Sandy) Alex G, “Let it have me // how it wants // it’s never what you thought // it’s never what you thought.” “It” is a recurring character on this record. “It” manifests itself in many ways. On the second track, “Find Me,” Aaron fears the feelings of anxiety that seem to hunt him down, “I can’t let it find me // I can’t let it find me.” In “Leave the House,” “it” is his relationship – “it” is the imbalance that haunts him. “It” is something he wants to isolate himself from. “I don’t want to leave you out // I just want to leave the house // find something to think about // maybe take a walk around.” The beauty of “it” is that it is entirely abstract and up to the listeners interpretation. “It” can be manifested however the listener chooses, making “it” extremely personal.

By the closing lines of the track, the aforementioned “punchy” drums and synthesizer have gone. All that is left is Aaron with his final line “You give it to me for free // and I don’t think that you see // that you don’t get much from me // that you don’t get much from me” syncopated over the same line Alex G sings to open the track. Though the drums are gone, the beat carries on, and I’m still dancing – “it” keeps me dancing. What is left when the drums and synthesizer disappear – just Aaron and Alex harmonizing – is rather minimal, lyrically, and sonically, but it carries on the groove. This simultaneous lyrical simplicity and danceability makes Aaron’s new record exception. Anyone can manifest Aaron’s abstracted but concise words how they need to – anyone can relate to the fear and loneliness that serve as Aaron’s muse – and anyone can dance to his odd and unconventional grooves if they feel like it. The House makes our anxiety into something we can dance to.

The House is out now on Domino Records. It is available for streaming on Spotify and Apple Music, and for purchase on Bandcamp and iTunes.

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