“I think that I’ll stay inside,” a trailing lyric from Porches’ “Find Me,” has been my psychic AOL instant messenger away message for what now seems like an eternity. By this, I mean I wanted to tweet it a million times—maybe pin it for the highest possible visibility. As 2018 begins, I don’t see myself ever leaving my place. It could be the cold talking, but let’s be honest here: Nigel is gonna Nigel. Building on some heavy loner vibes, I continue to find myself turning to my bed, wondering where I am going to find what I need to find. Whether it be motivation, or inspiration. Porches’ follow up to 2016’s Pool, The House, continues to hit me where it really hurts.
I first met Aaron Maine, the person behind Porches, in 2014 through our mutual friend Jessica Lehrman (Hi, Jessica Lehrman <3) while hand-modeling for a sketchy prepaid credit card company that may or may not still be in business. Per the script, we had to swipe our way through Midtown, going down a checklist of shopping activities that was social media–friendly. I naturally “purchased” a lot of jewelry. I also tagged along as Aaron caught a cab in Times Square…and went around the block. It was brief, but in that cab ride, we spoke about our current musical projects. World’s Fair, the rap group I’m in, had no idea what was next; Porches had a show coming up at Baby’s All Right (or, I think it was at Baby’s).
Unfortunately, I did not get to catch it, but their 2015 performance at FADER Fort made me an instant fan. The melodies and chords sounded fresh, yet familiar. I obviously didn’t know the lyrics yet, but I felt that, after a long weekend away in the mountains with the album, I too could put my own concert together in my room. I went to LA for a while in the beginning of 2016 to work on my first solo EP, El Ultimo Playboy, and I found myself listening to Pool Ubering around the city in traffic. Whether I was either at a friends or in the back seat of an aspiring actors’ Prius, I was alone in my head trying to figure out who I was not only to myself, but who I was to others. The album’s intro, “Underwater,” laid out what I have been trying to say for years: “Sometimes, I see the vision, sometimes, you know, I don’t.” There was just nothing else out that I could relate with at the time.
Fast-forward to 2018. The House has become what Pool was to me in 2016: The soundtrack to my travels and the forever-changing landscape I call my emotions. Instead of swimming around in my feelings, not knowing what and how I should feel, for once, I knew that they were a part of me. In order to move forward, I had to be one with the feels and make them the main attraction.
I’m not a music writer. I’m not even a writer. There is one thing I can say, though: This album hits. I was stepping out the crib (for once), checking my phone, when I saw the first single from The House, “Country,” was out via Porches’ Instagram. I failed miserably trying to stream it while logged into the crib’s Wi-Fi despite being down the block already. Two airplane modes later, and I’m watching “Country,” the perfect teaser for what was to come on the album. At a minute and fifty-three seconds long, the song is an open field with infinite paths to take. The video shows Aaron filling up the tank and riding through the country on the bed of a pickup truck. If Pool was “all alone in my room,” The House is “all alone in the world.” You really get a scale of where he is going with this one. And, with three other power ballads, The House makes for a Sammy Sosa vs. Mark McGuire grand slam of an album.
The House returns to Pool-esque infectious four-AM-ride-back-home pop anthems that I never knew I needed. I was lucky enough to hear what ended up becoming “By My Side” at a very intimate Ricky Pepsi (Aaron’s stage name when performing solo) show over a year ago. There were easily over 60 people packed into what was the legendary Elvis Guesthouse, a liquid safe haven for writers, college students, and bartenders waiting for their shift to start. In the heart of the East Village, seven blocks away from a train in every direction but east, Elvis was the ultimate gamble. You wanted to have a night alone at the bar on a Monday? You had to pray I didn’t have a party going on. You wanted to party on a Saturday night? You had to pray there wasn’t an “influencer” (LOL) DJing Smash Mouth on repeat. Elvis was about the true coexistence of all walks of life; all normals and weirdos were accepted. If you wanted to participate, the crowd was there. If you wanted to read a book at the bar, a simple head nod could fill your cup with Espolon. If you were lucky enough, you didn’t know the Wi-Fi password and experienced true silence before stepping back out into the wild to finally get cell service. It was home.
On the night of that Ricky Pepsi show, everyone was silent as Aaron played a solo set sitting behind his electric keyboard. It was bittersweet listening to the new material as our home was coming to an end. I might have even heard more off this album that night, along with the classics, but I was almost in tears hiding by the famous fake floral arrangements in the little cove behind the DJ booth. It was the last time Elvis produced something special that New York desperately needed, and I wasn’t ready to break up with her. I’m pretty sure there’s an Instagram post of that same exact moment with a very sad caption (I just checked, and there was no caption). Aaron made that night feel like everyone was witnessing something very important. Despite the small venue, his songs felt huge. Them things go off.
As big as these songs on The House are, they’re also club-ready. There is no greater feeling than rinsing it out on the dance floor while shedding a few tears to “Anymore,” a four-to-the-floor banger with a menacing bass line that attacks your feet and makes you wish you brought the right trainers to the function. Shit, you can even blend in Åkeren” mid-set for all the sensual ravers to make the whole room’s tracksuits swish in unison. If it’s not Aaron’s angelic voice, it’s his production that really brings you in. It’s melodic and Hpnotiq (also hypnotic, but definitely the popular blue 2001-era cognac, Hpnotiq). His chord progressions are a wind tunnel that spits you out into the most convenient (or inconvenient, but still fire) mood. The 808s knock so hard you forget you’re running on that Planet Fitness treadmill, and your heart sinks when you subconsciously decide to run to the beat, but the song’s tempo and your running speed don’t sync up. It’s that real. The synths tie into his ongoing aquatic theme, with each song drowning in filters, and, if I’m not fortunate enough to be in a pool myself, I can just close my eyes and feel them burn with what I’m assuming is that salty pool water Atlanta is apparently into.
Don’t take my word for it. Get the album, whether on CD, vinyl, or streaming services. Listen to the album while you shower, dance to it in the mirror while getting dressed, melt into it while melting into your extra-large puffer jacket on the E train; you can keep your headphones in while spiritually constructing your own personal Elvis Guesthouse, no matter where you are. Aaron made a body of work. It didn’t need to be shared. The least we can do is give it a spin. If you’re not into it, that’s cool. If you are, there is a whole new world to explore that started in someone’s head, made the bedroom cut, was tracked in a studio, and, finally, was ready for your swishing tracksuit.