“Pool,” the latest album from synth-pop auteur Aaron Maine’s project Porches, arrives at a crossroads for the young Brooklynite. It’s his major label debut on Domino, it’s his first album to be toured without accompanying bassist/girlfriend Greta Kline (aka Fankie Cosmos, who helped collaborate on several songs off “Pool”), and it’s his first album to feel like a cohesive artistic statement.
Compared to 2013’s “Slow Dance in the Cosmos,” “Pool” maintains Maine’s brooding presence whilst trading in his folkier inclinations for ‘80s synthesizers. Like the water motif Maine reflects on, his fluid songwriting sounds natural under the new genre tag. And it’s no wonder. Armed with a Yamaha DX7 synth during a recent solo outing, Maine’s instrument is literally a product of the period he evokes (other users of the DX7: Phil Collins, A-Ha, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Janet Jackson, and Tears for Fears).
Whether he is exploring his introversions on loner anthems “Be Apart” or “Underwater,” “Pool” is a testament to the wisdom that comes from independent thinking. “I really want to make it right / for us to belong to the night,” Maine sings on “Underwater.” “I lit one up and I drove around / just wonderin’ whatchya doin’ now.”
“Pool” projects a dark, moody atmosphere that extends throughout the album, music for driving alone at night to. Yet instead of wallowing in his misery, Maine views it as a source of power. Soaked in melodrama, Maine’s voice expresses sadness, desperation, and longing in isolation. If “Pool” were by anyone else, it would run the danger of becoming gimmicky, white sad-boy pop. In Maine’s control, the effort is emotionally resonant.