As a preface to this piece, I was asked by a friend to review Porter Robinson’s Nurture album. As an experiment, I challenged myself to write the review as I played the album in its entirety for a second time. Below are my unfiltered live reactions to Nurture.
Nurture is a profoundly touching and honest depiction of the creative struggle despite even finding success. Regardless of the success you make, there’s always this weight and pressure from those that look up to you, from those that have expectations of you that loom over your head. This album is self-reflective of the feeling Porters went through prior to Worlds and the anxiety of having to follow it up. As a creative myself, there are many feelings and lyrics that are reflective of my own creative path and they run parallel to my own feelings. In many ways Nurture gives a voice to my own thoughts, helping me and others understand myself.
This is the first track on the album. As the opener, its slow progression builds off the melodies on the piano and the strings that follow through with a lot of ambient noise. It’s a clean and pretty tune. In many ways, it feels like a view of nature but from a fantasy point of view. I picture the forest backdrop of Mononoke. It even somewhat feels like the feelings felt after a long felt battle which isn’t too far off from this album’s meaning.
Look At The Sky
A self-reflective song about the progression from dreamer to dream to nightmare. Being happy and youthful, when your career was still just a dream you were chasing, those are often the times we don’t realize are the best of times, as we’re always seeking for something greater. Porter seems to reflect those thoughts in
“If it’s not easy, it must not be
At that age
I cherished the flowers beneath my feet
But then something must have changed in me
I used to feel so light
Now I’ll try
I just want time”
The other side of the coin is struggling to follow up on that success once you reach it. Was it luck? Was it a fluke? Maybe you’re just an imposter. “Shouldn’t it come to you naturally?” You haven’t made anything in years…. “And everyone knows, You’re losing your gift, and it’s plain to see.” These are thoughts I often thought of as an upcoming member of the video game industry. Why am I at this preview event, why am I getting these games for coverage, why are these people even talking to me? I’m just a guy that makes videos on games. Like Porter, I too thought I didn’t belong, that something must have gone wrong. Look at the Sky views that struggle but also learning to find the good in you, learning to see the positive reinforcement from those around and validating that this was you, you can still make something good and regardless, you have the time.
Get Your Wish
This song tackles the sense of ego that comes from young success. Porter aspired to make music in high school and by the time he was a senior, was getting out of school on Friday to fly to SF to tour Saturday night and fly back Sunday morning to be back for school. Though not on the level of that success, I often felt these similar emotions being so young within the games industry. Picture a 17-year-old at E3 talking to the president of Nintendo with industry veterans in their 30s and an established career. It was motivating but perhaps too motivating. As the obsession to be successful is endless and ultimately doesn’t end. How you use that obsession I believe can push you to be better or ruin your career, it’s something I think Porter reflects in
“And obsession wears you down
But don’t you waste the suffering you’ve faced
It will serve you in due time”
That theme of time is mentioned consistently in this album and it plays well here with the metronome looming in the background of this track.
This is an interesting track that doesn’t literally say much but features a mix of chime melodies in conjunction with an abrupt piano and ambient sounds. I get visions of walking through the forest just outside of Kichijoji, the nature walk separating the shopping area and homes in this tiny district toward the end of Tokyo. It’s a lovely piece that reflects a more therapeutic part of the creation process. I’ve always liked the phrase “Be Here”, just here in the moment, absorb what is happening and I think Wind Tempos accurately reflects the feeling of just being here.
This song is very on the nose of being the underdog. Chasing your dreams despite those closest to you not believing in you. It’s a song filled with doubt but not internally, from those you’d expect to believe in you. Musician is about breaking away from those voices around you and learning to follow through with what makes you happy. This song helped me reflect on my early days as a content creator, hearing my mother say how pointless my work as if I wasn’t making a living off it. How I was better off working at a fast food place for $9 an hour than working endlessly on a career that wasn’t paying me anything.
“Fine, well do what you need to
But I don’t want to see you
Wasting your life
And isn’t it time you get a job?”
As Porter reflects in the title, I didn’t do it for money, “…we do it for the feeling”. It’s those very feelings, the sense of accomplishment, and the fact that I could see my work helping others get through their own struggles that left me wanting more. No matter what others told me, not even my own family, I wasn’t going to give up on myself.
“I just can’t stop, I’m sorry
I can feel a new day dawning
I burn up, burn out
I shouldn’t do this to myself”
Like Wind Tempos before it, this title heavily uses ambient sound to create this atmosphere of nature though with a hint of an urban landscape. The chirps of birds, the children playing at a park, you’re walking through a part of town and you block out the city noise but you hear the city music.
This song is another on the nose track where its meaning is at the forefront. We’re all born into this world and naturally, we afraid, we don’t know this place and we look to those closest for comfort. Mother encapsulates that idea of that and more importantly, that even when we grow older, those feelings remain the same. We might have outgrown living at home but no matter the struggles faced, your family is your family, and they’ll always be your home. It’s a song that helped me reflect on my time with my family, both good and bad, and that despite the doubt and troubles I’ve had, they’ll always be a home.
“And now there’s an empty room you outgrew
But I’m here for you, oh, oh-oh-oh
For the man that grew, grew, grew, grew, grew
And oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
All I wanna do is best for you”
To me, this track feels like time passing by a bit too quickly as if in the heat of the moment, everything feels like a blur. It’s a reminder to slow down and truly listen to what’s happening around you. It’s about being here. I truly believe it’s felt up to the last pop of the song.
To simply put it, this song is about finally finding that one person you love so much that you’re finally scared of the realization you’re going to die. It’s about finally finding someone that you love so much you put their happiness before your own. It’s truly believing that the world is a better place if not lucky to even have this one person there. In between the time since Worlds came out and now Nurture, I’ve gone through my own hurdles of dating, to say the least. Nevertheless, right before this pandemic, I too found someone lucky enough to be by my side. Among the many things she’s taught and is still teaching me, is helping me find a reason to live and despite the fact we’ll all be gone one day, the looming gloom isn’t so bad if I spend my time here by her side. I love you Michie ♥️
“And I feel so stupid, ’cause I wasn’t scared of this before
But since I met you, I don’t wanna die no more
So take a long time
’Cause, oh, the world is lucky to be your home, I know
I need a next life
’Cause I’m not satisfied to know you just once”
Mirror’s chorus progression and vocal melody are so slow and lengthy but ultimately succumbs to a satisfying finish that is self-reflective of the lesson and message preached throughout its 5:06 minute run time. It’s a song about the deepest self-doubts we carry. Your worthless, your work is pointless, you’re just a burden. It’s the process of recognizing that the voices you’re hearing, those thoughts are just your own. You know it’s you but despite it all, you keep hearing those voices. Learning to let go of that voice, maybe not completely but enough to be free of the fear.
“And it’s not the voice of all the others
You’ve only said it to yourself
I know what you want from me”
Something Comforting perfectly captures the undertones of Nurture as an album. It depicts the emotional struggle of an artist that has found success but fears not being able to continue to follow through. It’s filled with the self-doubts of one's own skills and talent as a creative, was it all a mistake? Was it luck? What did it take to get here and what did it cost?
Ultimately I believe it’s the fear of losing yourself in the process of chasing your dreams. In the end, the dream is corrupted and you’re left dreaming of just wanting to dream and seek again, finding your music and the reason you’re doing this in the first place.
“’Cause getting made you want more
And hoping made you hurt more
Oh, there must be
Something wrong with me”
This feels like the other half of Sweet Time. Like the former, Blossom offers an honest depiction of finding the one person that means the world to you and simply wishing them nothing but the best. You know the sun will eventually set on your time with them yet, you just want to be able to cherish them with the time you do have. It’s important to not get lost in your fears and this song warns you of this. Find those that mean the most to you and be here.
“‘Don’t think of the time that’s left
You’re spending it in your head, I just want you laughing’
I’m sorry for crying, I just want you happy
So at last, goodbye
I’ll be happy just to have known you
And we wished each other well”
This title stands out among the rest in the fact it’s the one true collaboration (Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, although it should be mentioned you’ll find samples of Kero Kero Bonito and guitar by Yyvet Young throughout the album. Nevertheless, Unfold feels like the song that marks the ending of the album. It features a soundscape with such a wide variety that comes off almost like an anthem to the whole album.
To me, it feels like the end of a long hard-fought journey and just wanting to go home but feeling a little too ashamed to because you’re not the same. At the same time, it’s embracing your home and that despite everything you’ve been through, you’ve grown so much for the better. These are thoughts that run through my head frequently as I go back to visit my family once or twice a year. I’m not the same me, but this is still home, and it’s all ok.
“’Cause I’m not the same as I was
As I shoulder the weight of the world
And I watched the water unfold
It’s a feeling I want you to know”
Trying to Feel Alive
Perhaps one of the more honest titles on the album and a great conclusion to what’s been a journey of self-reflection on the highs and lows of “success”. Trying to Feel Alive puts a pin on the journey of self-reflection as if it’s asking, what did we learn? How did we change? Are we finally satisfied? Is the chase over?
No, and that wasn’t the point. The art behind the creation was never to be satisfied and done, rather, it was the feelings, just trying to feel alive.
Well, this is why we do it for the feeling — Musician
Perhaps, never being satisfied was the gift all along. Being able to consistently chase this emotion, to just feel alive. Not only for yourself but to the others that look to you to feel alive in the same way you may look to your own favorite creators for it.
And not only for yourself
’Cause that’s your role
The work that stirred your soul
You can make for someone else — Get Your Wish
Ultimately the realization is wanting to be able to evoke the emotions that you felt when you first discovered your favorite creations. It’s those same feelings I chase after with everything I make, to hope that it resonates with someone, somewhere in the world in the same way I felt making it.
Then somebody somewhere finds
The warmth of summer in the songs you write
Maybe it’s a gift that I couldn’t recognize
Trying to feel alive — Trying to Feel Alive
Porter Robinson’s Nurture is a lovely follow-up to Worlds that shows Porter’s struggle and growth since he last released Worlds in 2014. While we can often get lost in chasing success, it’s ultimately the feelings that drive us to create, to be able to feel connected with others in the way only mutual emotions can make us feel connected.