If Porches’ Aaron Maine is slack when it comes to lyrical depth, he nevertheless knows how to imbue an album with clear themes that permeate every track. Pool is, unsurprisingly, awash in watery imagery, and that transforms into further ruminations on being suspended, wavering physically and emotionally between two extremes. That may sound grandiose, but the defining aspect of the Porches sound continues to be Maine’s listless, downright unemotive vocals. Second single “Be Apart” distills all of this into three minutes of lo-fi synth-dance-pop. Decked out in black turtlenecks for the music video, the Porches crew play ping-pong and bounce basketballs – that is, when they’re not just lethargically lounging about in sterile surroundings. The question of whether Maine wants to be “apart” or “a part” is moot under such dispiriting circumstances.

Between Slow Dance in the Cosmos and Pool, Maine’s focus has shifted from gritty guitars and acoustic percussion to disorienting electronics and dance beats. Whereas his previous sound had such warmth to it, this new style is standoffish, leeching emotion from the music. Despite the novelty of Maine using techno and dance beats, his arrangements frequently come across as flat, devoid of something necessary to both differentiate the songs and draw listeners into them. This is where Maine’s emphasis on repeated themes hurts him, as does his use of Auto-Tune. Pool is just shy of 40 minutes of over-precise snares and blippy, aquatic synths that are only ever tempered by fleeting moments of funk courtesy of basslines from Greta Kline (aka Frankie Cosmos).

Maine has explained some of these sonic changes, saying he wants his music to be something people can dance to. If your definition of “dance” includes gentle swaying, he has achieved that at least. “Car,” the most recent single, is couched in driving percussion and sees the return of some crunching guitar-play. Perhaps the most simplistic ode to the car and the escapism it represents, it’s easy to imagine crowds crooning “Oh, what a machine!” along with Maine. “Glow,” along with “Car,” bear the marks of lingering Slow Dance-era Porches. The combination of ethereal female backing vocals, along with the interplay between its shimmering synth line and the disco bass, makes “Glow” a groove-worthy track that better melds the old and new Porches sounds. But the most devoted “dance” tracks are undoubtedly the techno-indebted “Braid” and funky, falsetto-fueled “Mood.”

It wouldn’t be a stretch to call Pool a chillwave album. It exists in that same world of introspective, downtempo synthpop. There are even ’80s callbacks, as in the smooth, astral synths on “Mood.” It’s an album best experienced in the familiar darkness of your bedroom (“Hours” even opens with the line, “In my loner hour/ I turn to my twin bed for power”), and Pool does grow on you. The concerted minimalism thankfully shows an artist experimenting with pop touchstones through the dreamy lens of his own unique style, not the other way around. And this album has plenty of moments that indicate that Maine is committed to complex, atypical electronics, whether it’s “Be Apart”’s discordant finale, the breakdown on “Shaver” or the robotic electronics on “Hour.” Despite its over reliance on drum machines or its tendency to simply add flashes of saxophone and funk to spice up the staid atmosphere, Pool ultimately comes out of it sounding more like reinvention than pastiche.

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