On his fourth studio album as Porches, Aaron Maine again looks to do battle with both his own inner emotions and the breadths and depths of his production manual. A natural predecessor to his past two records, ‘Ricky Music’ contains the familiar dynamics we have come to expect from a Porches album. Slow-burn 80s pop sheen beset with purring synths, documenting the fabled early hours after the end of a party - with this time our protagonist looking to come to terms with his estranged soul and lovers left behind.
There’s no denying Maine’s sonic pallet. He manages to distill a sense of darkness and vulnerability from his rich melding of wobbling synth textures, minimalist drumbeats and distorted auto-tuned vocalisations. ‘Do You Wanna’ is the living embodiment of this setup, as Maine sings ‘so happy I could die but I just want to watch you’ over retrograde slow-dance synths that fluctuate with the fragility of his open mental state. There are no pool-side pop bangers to be found here, instead Maine opts for introspection over adulation. Perhaps, with the exception of the agitated, eclecticism of the dancefloor filling ‘Madonna’.
Maine indulges his bedroom-pop roots, using the wider tools at his disposal to create a more lurid evocation of that similar sense of claustrophobia. From the B-movie stylings of ‘I Wanna Ride’ to the off-kilter trip-hop of ‘I Can’t Even Think’ intercut with jazzy horn lines. Porches’ records always have made for an interesting melting pot of sonic ideas.
However, for all the kaleidoscopic production flourishes - Maine’s undeniable strength - there’s still a feeling that ‘Ricky Music’ lacks any real lyrical heft. His choice of phrasing often lending themselves to the softboi tropes. He paints his fragility in such broad strokes its difficult to take them seriously, as exemplified by the lead refrain on ‘Hair': “Do you want to cry I do too” or “someday I want to die with you” (‘I Wanna Ride’). In fact, there’s a lot of crying and dying plotted throughout the album - eliciting a resoundingly forced sense of emotional feeling, with such hollow mopiness sucking the life out of the record. Whilst the characters that inhabit his songs appear a surface-level of sad, such emotional pains are never explored and the lines around which they are drawn are never coloured-in in any meaningful way.
The one time we get a look behind the mask makes for by far the album’s strongest point. ‘Wrote Some Songs’ sets a dark scene as Maine contemplates his own demise and assessing the achievements of his life - concluding the he “wrote some fucking songs” as he searches for a greater meaning. An interesting juxtaposition with the life-affirming, sparkly pop close ‘rangerover’ with its affirmative repetition of “I wanna live”. A rare glimpse into the true conflict that lies behind the production and providing some much-needed characterisation. Though these two tracks alone account for less than four minutes of the album’s run-time.
For all its crystallised pop production, ’Ricky Music’, can’t help but feel flat. More concerned with evoking a feeling and mood rather than say anything explicit about the sadness, confusion and joy that Maine has experienced in the creation of the record beyond broad stereotypes of sadness. Something only amplified by the record’s lean run-time. “I’m kind of pretty, kind of busted too,” Maine declares on ‘Hair’ - a sentiment that somewhat sums up this aesthetic driven record. A hazy acid dream that for all its vivid colour has little of note to say.
Words: Rory Marcham
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