You only have to listen to a few minutes of Aaron Maine’s appearance on the uber-trendy, bicoastal elite podcast How Long Gone to tell how much he’s changed. In an interview that touches on astrology, failing to quit smoking, and tennis, Maine, who’s spent the past eight years putting out sulky indie pop under the moniker Porches, sounds aloof, and even a bit cocky. “I think I could be, like, excruciatingly calm and collected, but when it’s time to pull out some words, I can be pretty savage,” he tells hosts Chris Black and Jason Stewart, in regard to lashing out at his creative team. Throughout the interview, he speaks in an elongated, ASMR-ish drawl. It’s the kind of voice you might expect to come out of a Red Scare-adjacent model you’d meet at a tragically hip club in Silver Lake or Bushwick. Maine has always possessed an ethereal quality. However, Porches in 2021 seems less down-to-earth than the project did in 2013, when it was just an outlet for Maine to put out poetic songs about his love life.
Porches burst onto the scene all that time ago with Slow Dance Through the Cosmos, an album that blended lo-fi synthscapes, blunt guitar lines and neurotic lyrics. Maine really found his footing with 2016’s Pool, though. That album toyed with bohemian new wave, oblique dance music and alluringly vague songwriting. It set Maine up for success, thrusting him to the forefront of the alternative underground, alongside his ex-partner Frankie Cosmos. But right when it seemed like Maine was poised to become one of the most beloved weirdos of our time, he fell off. The albums that followed, The House and Ricky Music, were brief, rigid affairs that felt a touch too tailored for Spotify playlists like Pollen and Soirée. Toying with a myriad of styles, and drawing inspiration from genres past, Porches’ latest, All Day Gentle Hold !, finally breaks the mold that listeners may have come to expect from Maine’s recent endeavours. Flirting with new wave, dream pop and electronic music, it doesn’t quite recapture the magic of the good old days, but it definitely feels ambitious compared to the two records that preceded it.
Recorded in Maine’s New York City home studio between October 2019 and April 2021, All Day Gentle Hold ! came to life both before and during the pandemic. You can sense the impact of societal turbulence on its intense, guitar-driven arrangements. “Lately” pairs shoegaze-indebted riffing with a pounding drum groove until it erupts into a minimal, motorik climax. “Blood everywhere / I love the way that it smells,” Maine sings, his vocals distorted and warm. On “Watergetsinside,” golden feedback and searing keys lay the framework for Maine’s umpteenth aquatic-influenced hook. “Swarovski” is less refined than its title, sporting a Pavement-y shuffle that gives way to a soaring chorus, which recalls a chanted schoolyard taunt. Citing The Ramones and Nirvana as key reference points, this album flaunts a punk propulsion that hasn’t been present on a Porches release since the project’s debut.
While All Day Gentle Hold ! certainly rocks harder than a lot of Porches albums, it’s not without its subdued moments. “Back3School” utilizes creamy FM synths and a driving drum machine beat to support wholesome verses and a promiscuous chorus. With its lush pads, wonky lead and glitched-out voices, “Inasint” stands out, even if it’s merely an interlude. “In A Fashion” is laidback, employing an instrumental that brings to mind a crunchier take on Ginuwine’s “Pony.” Recorded with just two guitars, keys, live drums and a drum machine, All Day Gentle Hold ! is more contained than most Porches records, which are typically lush, ornate affairs. After a couple of flops, though, stripping things back to basics seems like a solid strategy for writing an album that hardly wastes any space. At the very least, All Day Gentle Hold ! is more intentional than Ricky Music was.
As a whole, All Day Gentle Hold ! isn’t quite engaging enough to cut through the static in an oversaturated niche. It still plays like “Internet music,” and feels algorithm-oriented when held up alongside the certified classics Maine dropped in the mid-2010s. However, it does manage to strike a balance between the stylish sass of post-fame Porches and the elegiac sulking of the act’s early era. It seems like Maine has finally found a sound that will continue to allow him to headline large venues, without coming across as a sellout. All Day Gentle Hold ! confidently lays the groundwork for a sustained Porches return. At least for now, it’s nice to know that Maine is up to more than just acting like the king of Manhattan’s comedically cosmopolitan Dimes Square social scene.
Ted Davis is a culture writer, editor and musician from Northern Virginia, currently based in Los Angeles. He is the Music Editor for Merry-Go-Round Magazine. On top of Paste, his work has appeared in Pitchfork, FLOOD Magazine, Aquarium Drunkard, The Alternative, Post-Trash, and a slew of other podcasts, local blogs and zines. You can find Ted on Twitter at @tddvsss.