Aaron Maine doesn’t seem to miss his guitars. Since 2016’s beloved breakout Pool, Maine, the man behind Porches, has been making his brooding dance-pop using only pristinely-produced bass, synth, and drums. Partnering up for another round with producer Chris Coady, who also produced Pool, Maine adds another coat of sheen to his songs while also stripping away the heady layers and effects of Pool. The result is a leaner, sleeker body of work. Though the album is satisfyingly varied—moving from brittle ballads like the spectacular “Country” to the left-field “Åkeren,” which is sung in Norwegian—it’s the dance tracks that get the most attention, finessed to flaunt a deep low-end punch framed by elegantly syncopated bass runs.
On The House, Maine further explores his signature themes of melancholy and wanderlust. Anxiety, detachment, and the mechanics of comfort play out obliquely in openers “Leave the House” and “Find Me” (“Touch my neck and walk me home / And I’ll be fine once I’m alone / Just don’t let it find me”). Maine’s lyrics draw heavily on sensory details, and are mostly inward-looking, evoking the feeling of being stuck in one’s own head.
The reason The House succeeds is because it contrasts these dour lyrical themes with elevating, spirited instrumentals. Throughout, Maine showcases two critical attributes: a dedication to creative growth and, as on his first two albums, prowess when it comes to composing truly gripping melodies. “Now the Water” is an instant New Romantic classic, and “Anymore” is a tranced-out near-reggaeton track, charmingly accented with autotune. These are intelligent and rewarding steps forward for Maine—steps that go even further to assure his place in the modern pop pantheon.