(Exploding in Sound, 2013)
Porches. (intentionally punctuated) is another great band from the Exploding in Sound record label, who brought us Ovlov, who we reviewed in July. Unlike Ovlov, however, Porches. in no way attempts to recreate or even glorify the grunge sound. Instead, their music recalls another and, arguably, better genre of the nineties: early indie rock. With lax, friendly instrumentals and a certain laziness in the singers’ voices which works pretty well, Porches. skillfully evokes the feeling of the laid-back sounds of bands like Pavement.
Which isn’t to say that they’re a copycat band in any way, or even a tribute band. It’s just that their music is easy to get lost in, in the same way that you can sink slowly into the thrown-together tracks of the early indie bands. The whole album sounds distinctly relaxed; it sounds like it could’ve been pieced together by a few good friends on a long night, with some good food and plenty of beer.
The most distinctly Pavement-sounding song on the album is “Franklin the Flirt,” which starts with a meandering melody and organ in the background. Then the beat picks up and it starts coming together nicely. It’s got a nice little chorus with some synth and guitar to round it off, and the singer even almost SOUNDS like early Stephen Malkmus with his casual but sometimes passionate tone. One thing this band has over Pavement, however, is the gift of NOT being a band from the early nineties. That is, the gift of being able to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors. Porches.’ songs are decidedly more coherent and tight than most of their forebears. Of course, there are both good and bad things about this fact; but in my opinion, the positive outweighs the negative by a landslide.
There are a few drug-related songs sprinkled throughout the album, for whatever that’s worth to you. Some people enjoy songs more when they’re about drugs, some people enjoy them less. To me, it doesn’t matter as long as it’s done right. The most notable drug reference would be the song “Xanny Bar,” which is a term for a 2 mg tablet of Xanax. I work in a pharmacy, so I won’t bore you with a rant about what this drug is doing to society, but I will say that the song is pretty damn good either way. It and “Intimate” are both very easy to fall into; just breathe a deep sigh and let the music wash over you, slowly close your eyes and let all the stress leave your mind…
The song “Skinny Trees” is about as active as the album gets, with the instrumentals building upon themselves in a loud and satisfying riff, but stopping rather abruptly at the end. The song is nice, but this band’s strength lies decidedly in their slow tunes.
And fortunately, the band seems to be aware of this, considering the name of the album. Too often I see bands who don’t understand why their fans love them, and when they start turning away from what they’re best at, they can’t understand why all their fans hate them (see: any rock band that thinks that simply adding an orchestra makes a song “artistic”). But Porches. seems to have an assuring strong grasp on what makes their music good.
In today’s music world, it makes me very happy to see bands like Porches. coming out with albums. It’s not just an old band that’s still going, nor is it a band whose sole quality is in creating nostalgia for times long past. It’s a new band, creating new music in a genre that often seems to have forgotten what the word “new” means. As your average twenty-something male of the 2010s, I can attest firsthand to the fact that this is very agreeable music for anyone in that category who’s seeking any kind of decent alt rock away from the sea of awful pop stars that we’re all supposed to love for some reason. It’s great to see that there are still people out there making this kind of music, and very reassuring.
On the whole, Slow Dance in the Cosmos evokes late-night encounters with good friends; the ramshackle, directionless life of the much-celebrate early-twenty-something; and a general atmosphere of relaxation and fun. Easily worth a couple of good listens next time you find yourself drinking a beer late at night and wondering what to do with time. I’m very satisfied with this album, and I’m excited to see what Porches. will come out with next.
RIYL: Fat History Month, Pavement, Pile