Porches mastermind Aaron Maine likes to say that the project name encompasses whatever music he’s inspired to make at any given moment. For the most part, that has meant gauzy bedroom synth-pop songs of varying distinctiveness, with a smattering of rugged guitars on Maines’ first album as Porches in 2013. He takes a more eclectic approach on Ricky Music, his fourth album with that moniker.
There’s no shortage of synthesizers this time, but Maine pays more attention to depth and texture on these 11 tracks, which range from just over 30 seconds to more than three minutes. The result is his most varied and far-reaching batch of songs so far. By shifting his style and instrumentation, there’s an unpredictability from one song to the next that forestalls any sense of listening complacency—there’s no sonic wallpaper effect here. A brooding mix of piano and synths on opener “Patience” gives way to a measured, but emphatic, rhythm on “Do U Wanna,” where the staticky kick-snare combination that steers the song clashes with a rampant cowbell that clanks in a rhythmic pattern spanning musical bars. The effect is disorienting, and Maine enhances it by singing in melancholic tones about how happy he is, for a disorienting effect. Only Maine would sing in melancholic tones about how happy he is.
He always sounds a little downhearted, which makes the instrumental variety all the more important as a contrast. But Maine changes up his vocal approach here and there, too. He tips into falsetto on the chorus of “I Can’t Even Think,” his voice surrounded by low shudders of bass synths, topped with bright arrhythmic splashes and a sly melodic line in the background. Elsewhere, he lets his voice ring on on “PFB,” which has the sped-up, flanged sound of a worn cassette tape about to get eaten by the car stereo (once a true hazard of obsessive teenage music consumption).
As on Porches’ previous records, Maine brings in collaborators to help broaden the sound of Ricky Music—and this time it shows more than it has in the past. The singer Zsela and Dev Hynes of Blood Orange add backing vocals to “Fuck_3,” which surrounds Maine’s own effects-treated voice with horns, meandering jazz-adjacent piano and a clattering rhythm. Hynes also sings on album closer “rangerover,” his limber lead vocals contrasting with Maine’s drowsier backing parts. With an airy melody and a fairly straightforward arrangement of drums and synthesizers that morph as the song progresses, the song has the feel of an ’80s R&B ballad. It’s arguably the catchiest track on the album, or at least the one that lingers longest, but it’s in good company. With its genre-agnostic, all-the-influences approach, Ricky Music is somehow Porches’ most cohesive album so far.