Water: symbolic for a pure, simple beginning. It often has to do with new life. The Water EP (released 8/23/2016 via Domino Records) is a look inside the pure thought process of indie-synth musician, Aaron Maine, otherwise known by his on stage alias, Porches. Before giving life to his 2016 album, Pool (2/5/2016 via Domino), Maine was working on (or with) a collection of demos, now released as an 8 track EP, entitled Water.
I use the word “demo” loosely though, because these aren’t demos in the traditional sense; rather than just being the bare bones of future songs, Maine’s “demo tracks” are layered, well-developed, and sung with just as much emotion as the final cut.
Water was not released to be critiqued, scored, or graded on artistic impact. Really, it wasn’t released for any reason other than being able to give fans an inside look at Porches’ musical growth, from trial to final cut. Being able to hear the way each song was crafted makes the listening experience to both records that much more interesting. The development in Porches’ artistry is evident through his trial and error process; where one artist might have been content with the collection of songs from Water, Maine was not.
The 27-year-old Brooklyn-based musician has honed in on his production skills since his 2013 synth-experimental “bummer-pop” record, Slow Dance in the Cosmos, and it’s something he was proud to utilize on the last record. On Pool, Maine writes with the same sensitive, Morrissey-esque lyrics he’s comfortable with, only this time around, he is able to capture the sound of his feelings in crisp, layered lines of synth, notable bass riffs, and clear vocal production.
I was eager to hear Maine’s evolution as songwriter and producer, and to discover the artistic transformation from Water to the transfixing, Pool.
Water – Porches
I just wait around
To hear the good news
I just wait around
To hear from you
“Mood” sets the tone for the Water EP. In the introductory track, the bass-line stands alone in the beginning with only a drum pad playing beneath it, whereas on Pool, the bass-line is still there to be heard, but shares the spotlight with a starry synth.
Are you in
I think I
I said the wrong thing
Maine is stagnant, waiting for something to happen. He’s not sure when, or if, the person he’s after will come his way, but he’s willing to wait. It’s a song of contemplation as he is left alone with his own thoughts, replaying each still in his head like it’s a movie.
“Pool,” the title track to February’s record, is a call back to teenage purity and carelessness. On the finalized version of the auto-tuned track, the intro is simple, like what you might expect water droplets to sound like.
Don’t wake me up
My body’s well
When it is still
Now that it’s still
I’ll watch you slip into the pool
The demo track is hazy, as it relies on dreams of the singer thinking about the pool, watching his lover break the water surface.
The 3rd track on the EP, “Glow,” may have went through the most notable transformation as it went from nearly four minutes on Water to about three minutes on Pool. Maine took away the echoing drums in the introduction, and once again, cleaned up his production with dreamy synthesizers. It kind of seems like a remedy for him; when in doubt, use synth. And it works.
I wanted to glow all night
I want you to know that i was right
So I tell myself that I
I won’t take it back
Maine focuses on the theme of love. His introspective look on love gives each and every song a different feeling of intimacy and depth. “Glow” is no different. Rather than be about falling in love, “Glow” is about trying to stay in love.
I tell you the truth
You tell it to me too
I know I need you
You know that we are through
Passionate fights revolving around love always seem to get worse when you’re alone. Emotions build, things are left unsaid, or too many things were said. It’s a fine line between one’s own pride while still wanting to salvage whatever love is left in the relationship.
Watch: “Car” – Porches
Maine seems to follow a similar pattern when it comes to inanimate objects like pools, cars, even his own band name, Porches. There’s a strong emotive power behind the lifeless objects he expands on. He’s able to bring each insentient thing he sings about to life. His vocals sound clean and stronger than ever on the final cut of “Car.”
Interestingly enough, the Water version of the track seems like something that would have made it onto Pool. His usual artistic pattern is to add dramatic synths, but Pool’s “Car” does something that is unexpected of the record. Maine composes and adds a foot-tapping guitar riff. Sonically the demoed version of “Car” fits Pool‘s electronic pattern, but Maine’s modulated singing and much needed guitar lines give the song new meaning on the record.
I pull up the car
And I let it run
It takes us away
From where we are
Driving a car is something all of us take for granted. We even drive without thinking about what we’re doing; all we know is that we’re going in our usual routine to get from point A to be point B. We don’t think twice about the grand machine we’re using to navigate from city to city… moving from one life to another.
Oh, what a machine
Maine is marvels at the four-wheeled machine and its ability to take us from one adventure to the next.
Shaving: an annoying routine for men and women all around. Maine takes mundane tasks and makes them a story. This time, he introduces us to the sensitive “Shaver.”
I make my face
Smooth for you
Do you like the
Things I do
The dark synth tune, reminiscent of the ’80s, is a reflection of how our attractions motivate us to do things for other people; whether it’s wearing a certain perfume, or shaving your face clean. Yet, more times than not, the small things we do to attract the objects of our affections remain unnoticed.
I watch her watch
Through the rain
I want it to
Belong to you
On Water, Maine’s voice sounded brittle, like he might fall apart at any given moment. On the final cut of “Shaver,” he sings with the same emotion, but this time it’s more of a soft whisper, begging for affection. Listening to Water, I began to feel like something might be missing. What was it? Oh yeah, Pool’s version of the track incorporates a sick saxophone solo. It gives the track another level of maturity, and it’s just plain fun to listen to.
Watch: “Shaver” – Porches
In many of his songs Maine portrays the kind of fragile, sensitive loner that a a lot of us can relate to at a some point in our life. “Security” is a simple, yet emotive song that tells the story of someone who yearns to feel stable in a world that is not.
Man I wish
There was a place
That I knew
I could always stay
Security can be found in a number of ways. For some, it’s with a roof over their head or with someone they love. At times, it seems like Maine is just singing into the void, waiting for someone to hear what he has to say.
All I want
Making an album is a cut and dry process. Artists have to pick and choose what songs best represent the album and their artistic personality. Water features 2 never before heard tracks that Maine felt didn’t belong on the new record.
Watch: “Black Dress” – Porches
Black Budweiser T-Shirt & Black Dress
“Black Budweiser T-Shirt” is a raw, acoustic set. It’s a short piece. Honestly, it feels like it probably wasn’t finished as it barely reaches a minute in length. It’s a quick tune, but it’s worth a listen. It reminds us of the other side of the singer’s musical identity. “Black Dress” takes another lifeless object and runs with it. The sound is electronic, and the production is reminiscent of his first release as Porches, Slow Dance in the Cosmos. Black dresses are symbolic for two attractive things: sex and mystery, and it makes him feel “powerless.” It’s more of a loving kind of weakness, where he’s letting his guard down and taking her for everything she is, in her black dress.
Demos are like lost, hidden gems in their own light. Water has glittering moments, and perhaps it even shines in some points where Pool doesn’t. Whether one is a fan of Porches or one just wants an inside look at the way a musician works, Water offers an interesting, unique perspective on the making of an album. Water may be a record full of “demos” and unfinished songs, but it’s also the journey of an artist discovering his own, new path.
cover photo: Porches © Jessica Lehrman