All Day Gentle Hold !
If Aaron Maine really wanted to, he could have kept Porches going on the path established with his breakout album, Pool. Earnest homemade indie pop with eternally weary vocals to add some different hues to the pleasant but largely unremarkable synth melodies and drum machine patterns is a formula that – once proven viable – you wouldn’t expect many artists to deviate from. In a way, Maine hasn’t deviated as much as he’s flipped the script. Previously, it seemed like Maine the frontman was tagging along, trying to not impose on the inherent placidity of his songs. Now, like on awkwardly titled new album, All Day Gentle Hold !, there’s hardly any escaping Maine and his presence. He is, if you pardon the pun, the main character.
There are definitely benefits to Maine making himself so felt. It allows his music to aspire to a level greater than pleasant. Though some fans might mourn the loss of the Porches that was holding onto the last vestiges of chillwave, last year’s underrated Ricky Music ended up as Maine’s most complete record to date: an impactful distillation of a breakup and the chaos of it all. Moments like “Lipstick Song” felt like Maine moving past emotional waffling and really making his feelings felt, along with refining his pop songwriting craft.
All Day Gentle Hold ! is something of a concept album as well. It was recorded in Maine’s bedroom before and during the pandemic, with the goal of creating “something injected with as much love, urgency, and lust for humanity as [he] possibly could.” The unwieldy title, with its oddly placed exclamation point, starts to make a bit more sense when you learn this. It’s as though Maine’s idea of a warm embrace is to pull you close, keep you there, and let you know how much you mean to him. If you’ve ever been sober at a house party, it might ring uncomfortably familiar.
It’s also amusing to consider how Maine’s idea of an album ostensibly about bringing people together is still so inwardly focused. Not only does his moaning tenor immediately thrust itself at you, but he spends much of the album describing how he’s been, without ever quite telling us. The opening lines are “My vibe has been pretty fucking crazy,” and Maine tends to not get much more insightful than that. There is some memorable lyricism here, just not for the right reasons. Also on opener “Lately” is the mortifying couplet “Tony Soprano, I make-a-me-hurt/I eat my dinner, I eat my dessert.” Right after this, on the longing but spritely “I Miss That,” we get “Baby has got the keys/Can u stick them into me?” And yes, “you” is rendered as “u” on the lyrics sheet.
But if Maine’s lack of shame is a hindrance in those moments, it’s an asset in others. Sometimes, the good and the bad coexist on the same song, with “I Miss That” having a particularly irresistible hook and the suspension and subsequent re-emergence of motorik drums somewhat absolve “Back3School” for its title and lyrics like “U suck on my arm and I kiss on your face.” He’s also aware enough to not wear out his welcome. No song on this 26-minute album runs even three minutes, and he knows when to cede the spotlight. The vocal presence of The Voice winner Chloe Kohanski on the alternately drifting and anthemic “Swimming Big” is refreshing, even the song never feels like a proper duet.
Even with its economical run time, All Day Gentle Hold ! can still be exhausting, mainly for how the ideas start to dry up around the halfway point. Maine only has so many ideas for what to do with his voice, and he seems to be banking on it to provide momentum where the rest of his songwriting can’t. But his idea of urgency on tracks like “Watergetinside” is to make everything feel maximal, even the purposefully subdued midsection, without ever earning our attachment. The closing track, literally called “Comedown Song (Gunk)” suffers from similar issues. You can’t not notice Maine when you’re listening to All Day Gentle Hold ! Whether he’s on your mind even an hour after listening is another matter.
Order All Day Gentle Hold ! by Porches HERE