For early Porches fans who fell in love with the oddball indie rock catchiness of releases like Slow Dance In The Cosmos and Je T’aime, listening to Pool for the first time will have some surprises. Singer Aaron Maine replaces his usually strong and booming vocals with a more delicate coo, thus creating a vulnerability less prominent in their previous work. It helps fit Pool’s landscape of warm and fuzzy synths harking back to the more emotional, less over the top, aspect of the ‘80s, making the resemblance Pool’s album art shares with Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love a fitting homage.
Listeners should expect to be immediately drenched in melancholia after their first dip in Pool. Followed by a masochistic urge to check out a club filled to the gills with finance bros. It’s what makes me feel the need to interject on “Be Apart” when Maine proclaims, ‘I will go out tonight,’ and kindly suggest that mayyyybe he should stay home and take it easy instead. “Glow” gives a more detailed insight on the anguish side of things. And while it gets a vibrant boost from the groove friendly bass kicking in at the chorus, it’ll probably lead to some tears shed on the dance floor if you’re going through a terrible break-up similar to Maine’s.
By design, the album uses very little instrumentation. The twinkling synths and funky bass lines are more than enough to create Porches’ desired ambience, and the patches of silence sprinkled in give center stage to Maine’s mood as he’s singing. A few curveballs are tossed out every now and then, which feels like more of a treat amidst the sparseness. “Shaver” has some some great industrial sounding drums clanging about, as well as a silky as hell sax solo towards the end. And the thing about an unexpected sax solo is that you never knew you needed one until it’s presented to you. Then you just want more.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t spend as much time as possible talking about “Car,” though. Most Porches hooks come from a repeated phrase that get embedded in the brain, and while they’re all very catchy, “Car” is on another level in that department. While it sounds like he’s saying ‘oh-woah, auto machine,’ Pitchfork’s review of the song has it as “oh, what a machine!” And who am I to disagree with such a cultural monolith? Either way, the lyrics hark back to the quirkiness in previous singles as theirs such as “Cosmos” and “Headsgiving.”
Their commitment to such simplistic subject matter is what makes “Car” the crown jewel of Pool. By taking the Occam’s Razor approach in songwriting, it emulates the brand of Beatles songs that give off the energy of something profoundly important, but wind up being a ditty about slides, or hole fixing. Maine applies that type of emotional urgency all from listing the functions of a car and describing what those functions do for him. It’s engaging, and it also happens to be the only song on the album prominently featuring a guitar. The wall of sound that comes from the heavy strumming provides a much needed kick for an album otherwise lacking a dynamic showstopping jam.
The aesthetic overhaul is slightly rattling at first, but Pool’s earnestness shines in each song, so it doesn’t give off a wave riding vibe. This isn’t a desperate attempt at trying to copy what’s current in order to stay relevant. Or maybe it is and they happen to be really great at faking emotion. Because what’s being felt is what’s most important on this album. You can dance off your recent break-up, or you can walk the streets alone at night for a few hours. Pool fits both of those moods extraordinarily well.