NEW MUSIC: Nurture by Porter Robinson

Nearly six and a half years of waiting ended as the clock struck midnight on Friday April 23rd, 2021 when the North Carolina native Porter Robinson released his highly anticipated sophomore album Nurture. Set to be released in the final quarter of 2020, the album’s release date was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But patience is a virtue and having waited six years for a new record after his critically acclaimed first album Worlds (2014), what’s another half a year? Having had it on replay since its release, I’m ready to dive into a review I’ve been waiting to do for a very long time.

As a bit of background Nurture is Porter’s response to the anxiety that swelled in him as he looked to create the follow up to his freshman album Worlds that took the electronic music community scene by storm. Objectively speaking, Worlds was a pretty revolutionary album not just for Robinson as a musician, but for the entire electronic music scene. While the infamous “sophomore slump” is a norm within the industry, the darkness Robinson found himself in attempting to avoid this is not a topic so candidly talked about by artists. With writer’s block and self-doubt over the music he was creating post-Worlds, Robinson had an epiphany: make the album about this struggle and overcoming the hurdles that life throws your way.

Text on the back of the lyrics booklet included in the vinyl.

I’m not going to sit here and compare Worlds and Nurture to each other for this whole review as they are two vastly different albums tonically. The dance focused synthpop, future-bass vibes of Worlds are left behind on this album. Nurture also has a more positive, uplifting atmosphere compared to Worlds‘ darker tones. But the sentiment of finding one’s place and meaning in life crosses over albeit in different ways. Where Worlds is about escaping this life to create a world inside your head that’s made for you, Nurture is about accepting whatever life throws your way and seeing the beauty in the real world we live in.

My expectations were high for this album after Worlds (last time mentioning this I promise), which, ironically, sort of killed my hype in a way. The singles were solid, but nothing as mind-blowing as I was anticipating. I was actually nervous to press play upon my first listen.

Fortunately, I found myself smiling throughout and laughing at myself for ever having doubted Porter. The album actually exceeded my expectations in a way I didn’t know was possible. The singles gained newfound appreciation and love within the context of the entire album. The new, unheard songs were nothing what I was expecting as they blurred the lines of dance, indie, k-pop, and ambient tracks. The general positive, yet nostalgic vibe gave me feelings I can’t remember having and awoke memories I haven’t thought about in ages. It almost feels the album’s vocalists are your inner-voice, reassuring you that everything will be okay.

This album has range and a little bit of everything. From internet and personal responses, everyone seems to have different favorite songs; the mark of a great record in my opinion. From the pop sound of “Mother”, to the emotional lullaby Blossom”, to the ambient soundscape of “Wind Tempos”, and finally the synth-pop anthem “Unfold”, this record has something to hit everyone in the feels.

For the most part, art shouldn’t need a preface. Great art, in my personal opinion, is when the listener/viewer can decipher and feel the meaning of the artist just by listening or viewing whatever the art is. While many may agree with me on the surface, I recognize that this is an incredibly flawed mindset and basically wrong. All the art that’s meant the most to me personally is because of some attachment I’ve had with its content or creator. I feel this is Nurture‘s greatest weakness as those slightly familiar with Robinson or those listening to see what the hype is all about may feel lost listening with no understanding about the meaning. And while this may be a weakness to the uninitiated, it is an absolute strength to those who understand Porter, what he’s been through, and what he is attempting to express.

Porter’s Secret Sky Festival set that aired a day after the album’s release.

There’s no bad song on the record that I can tell. And every song being pretty different from the other is tell-tale sign of Porter’s objectively insane production and songwriting skills. Of the singles, “Mirror” and “Look at the Sky” were my favorites with “Musician” really growing on me within the entire album’s context for some reason. Of the new tracks, “Wind Tempos” is a modern masterpiece as it is ambient beauty in pure tonic form. “dullscythe” is like the Porter x Flume collab I’ve always wanted with it’s glitchy audio and unconventional arrangement.

But my absolute favorite tracks are “Sweet Time” and “Unfold”. The slow ballad “Sweet Time” makes me an emotional wreck thinking about what it will be like when a sea of people are singing along to it at a live show. Porter uses his patented vocaloid creating a personal a of himself and his female vocal alter ego as a love song to his girlfriend. The song’s meaning is Porter expressing that finding love filled that open depressing hole in his life. He goes from “wanting to die” to “one lifetime is too short with you”. A beautiful track that really hits you in the feels when the vocal pads kick in around the 3:11 mark. “Unfold” is an absolute masterpiece and the accumulation of Porter’s over a decade musical journey. So many elements that reflect back to his Spitfire and Worlds eras while still maintaining the Nurture vibe. The song is a surprise collaboration with Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, who is a favorite of mine, and the only credited collab on the album. Probably the most “in-your-face” emotional track on the record, the synthpop vibes with big ethereal drops is reminiscent of his Worlds era. The vocals remind me of early Porter in his electro house days. My favorite overall track on the album for sure and, in my opinion, one of Porter’s best works.

So he did it. He avoided the sophomore slump and added a few more classics to his already impressive discography. And I know I promised to not bring it up again, but this will be the last time I actually will as I pose this question: Is it as moving and touching as Worlds? Hard to say after a week past the release date. On its surface, it may not seem so as Worlds was noticeably groundbreaking almost immediately whereas Nurture is more “intelligent” in its composition and more of a grower. Nurture feels like Porter maturing after he found his niche with Worlds. However, I will say that Worlds‘ success largely came about after going on tour and debuting his revolutionary live show. I believe the same will be true with Nurture. Porter’s live edits to his original works are something incredibly special as we’ve seen previously. History is set to repeat itself September 18th & 19th, 2021 as Porter’s festival Second Sky returns this time to Berkeley, CA for what will presumably be the debut of his Nurture Live show. Having been lucky enough to go to the inaugural Second Sky back in 2019, you know I’ll be there again. Make sure to register for presale tickets here before May 5th, 2021.

In the meantime, I will continue to have this album on repeat until my ears cannot handle it anymore. Nurture is an incredibly touching masterpiece that will keep you smiling throughout with the occasional wiping of happy tears. His maturity is evident, not just in music but in life. Hopefully the wait for new music will not be as long as his previous hiatus, but that’s an issue for future fans to worry about. Because right now we have the Nurture era to bask in and enjoy and for this album, “all the world is lucky to be your home”.

8.5 / 10

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