Hi. This is a monthly column where I'll be writing about something I've been unhealthily obsessed with. It is basically a written accompaniment to this meme. But with more music. Thanks.
When you look back on all the times you were happiest, the memories that stand out the most are usually the ones that involve other people. You and your best mate sing-screaming Avril Lavigne songs out your bedroom window to passers by. Watching the sun rise over New York while smoking rollies on the roof of a stranger you really fancy. Bashing into people on the dodgems before puking neon blue WKD over the side of Brighton Pier. This is probably because we are sociable creatures and need to enjoy each other’s company to procreate and thrive as humans. That said, there’s happiness to be found in hanging out with yourself too, but because it’s not as interesting or romantic, maybe it’s not something people speak about as often, and by extension, not something people make art about as often either.
One of my favorite things to do on this earth is shut my door, close my curtains and sit on my bedroom floor. Sometimes I’ll eat chocolate, or draw things (even though I can’t draw for shit), or throw tarot cards around while listening to a podcast about serial killers. If I’m truly alone, I might sing loudly to myself in the mirror, or turn my music up and make strange, contorted shapes with my limbs, punching the air and twirling on the small space of carpet next to my bed. And even though I am alone in these moments, I would definitely describe them as intimate. These are times in which I have learnt to have a comfortable relationship with myself, one that requires constant attention and one that specifically exists inside the house, in my own space, behind closed doors.
Porches—the music project from Aaron Maine—has just released his third album The House, and it is the perfect soundtrack to these kinds of intimate, indoor moments. Mainly written within the confines of one apartment in the West Village, New York, followed by another one in Chinatown, the whole album has an ‘inside the house’ energy that sounds like having internal conversations with yourself and trying to make sense of the space in which you exist. Even the slow-moving electronic beats and languid melodies feel like the unhurried breaths and sedate rhythms of your insides when nobody else is around. This solitude is maybe unusual for an album of synth-driven pop music—a genre that was born from and thrives in group settings—but on The House it makes sense. There is, after all, just as much movement going on inside our brains as there is outside of it.
Even so, I wouldn’t say it’s a joyful album. At times it feels anxious and jaded. But there is an ease to this indoor isolation. As Colin Joyce wrote in a recent Noisey profile on Porches, “There’s a sense of self-possession that runs through the record—aided by the placidity of Maine’s palette of synthesiser sounds. There’s comfort in the conflict, somehow.” You can hear this on “Find Me” when Maine sings, “I think that I'll stay inside / If you don't think that they'd mind,” over punchy synth keys that sound kind of like “Show Me Love” by Robin S. In the "Find Me" video, he can be seen moving his body around between duvet covers, the camera zooming in on the shadows on his skin beneath the dimmed lighting. Sometimes you just need to withdraw from the world for a moment—especially if you’ve got an introverted nature—and give yourself time to reflect on things that have happened before returning to other humans again. “Find Me” is like an anthem for those withdrawals, and the people that need them.
The thing about spending time by yourself is that it’s often defined by the absence of other people. This time last year, for instance, I found myself reaching the end of a four-year relationship in which we had shared a flat together. In the immediate aftermath of that particular break up, the silence that surrounded me felt deafening, uncomfortable, aimless. I would cook elaborate meals for people who came over, or go to sleep really early, just to fill the physical and psychological space that seemed to stretch ahead of me like intimidating white noise. As the weeks ticked on, though, that same space started to sweeten. My own personal universe started to feel less like a void and more like a place I wanted to spend time in and relish. These days, being alone with myself is one of my favourite things, maybe even more so because it didn’t used to be.
To me, The House is like being within the depths of that very specific and gradual navigation. This makes sense because the album was written and recorded while Maines himself was reaching the end of a romantic relationship, and you can hear it all over every track. In “Wobble,” a 2-minute song that appears towards the end of the album, Maine sings, “Keep a place so empty, fill it with a thought / Sometimes it really shakes me, sometimes it does not.” Again, as Colin pointed out in his profile, “Maine says he doesn’t feel like its a ‘breakup record’, as such, but it channels both the uncertainty of the period of its construction and the respite that followed.” In other words, the whole thing feels like a narration of the passing of time when you’re alone and trying to get used to it.
The House has only been out for a couple of weeks, but it hasn’t received glowing reviews. Pitchfork gave it a 6.4 rating, explaining that the lyrics sound “like Maine is trying to talk his way out of an ambiguous feeling and never quite getting there”. The thing is, though, I think it’s this uncertainty and confusion that make this album particularly relatable. During these times we spend on our own, in the house, mulling over things and working out how to exist alone with ourselves, you never reach a perfect or permanent state of internal nirvana. Instead, you just constantly try and figure shit out. Sometimes you will feel deeply uncomfortable with your own thoughts, desperate to fill the space with other people and their thoughts, their feelings. Other times you will feel relieved to be by yourself, blissful in those moments in which you are silent beneath your sheets, or curled around a laptop screen, or staring mindlessly out the window. The House sounds like all of this, and everything in between.
This article originally appeared on Noisey UK.