Look at the sky: Porter Robinson’s “Nurture”

In August 2014, Porter Robinson released his debut album “Worlds” to widespread acclaim. His spin on Synthpop and EDM raked in tens of millions of streams, and before long he shot into the music industry stratosphere. This success was bittersweet for Robinson. Fearing his creativity had reached a peak, he fell into a suffocating depression and creative burnout for two years. During that time he became consumed by the task of creating music and rarely produced anything he was confident enough to keep. Fortunately, after a fruitful journey of self-discovery, Robinson returned to producing music, with a healthier and more optimistic mindset in tow. In 2021, after seven years of experimentation and refinement, Robinson’s second studio album “Nurture” was released. 

The first track, “Lifelike,” introduces the sonic makeup of the album. It’s a blend of electronic and folk aesthetics that together elicit images of green vistas and enormous blue skies. It’s a very unique sound that doesn’t lose any of its luster in “Nurture”’s hour-long runtime. 

“Look at the Sky” and “Get Your Wish” follow, detailing Porter’s struggles with burnout and finding purpose and his triumph over both anxieties. Both songs are life-affirming reminders that, despite every hardship, you are still alive and the sky can still enchant you. 

“Wind Tempos” comes after and serves as an important piece of connective tissue for the project. It’s a long and dynamic piece that doesn’t feature any conventional song writing features (i.e., chorus, bridge, etc.), and instead opts to build up immense textures using the electronic-folk sound established in the introduction. Choppy vocal samples build over piano lines, strings and the sounds of nature, and eventually it all crashes into the next track. 

“Musician” was the last song to be completed before “Nurture”’s release. Considering that, at this time, Robinson was both over his creative burnout and ready to release his project of seven years, I consider this track his victory lap. On top of being a celebration of his own progress, this song also explores the wonder in being someone who creates music. 

After another transitional song, the album resumes with the track “Mother.” It celebrates the warmth and happiness that mother figures can provide to people. 

Some tracks later is “Something Comforting,” the first track Robinson completed after his two-year depressive episode. As such, it details the intense yearning for something comforting Robinson felt during his throes with burnout. This song holds a lot of gravity on the album and is my personal favorite. 

After a few other tracks, “Nurture” closes with “Trying to Feel Alive.” Robinson accepts that he may never be satisfied with his music or any aspect of his life to the fullest extent. This feeling is seen by him not as a burden or a curse, but the very essence of being alive. 

“Nurture” is a microcosm of all types of life. It’s not just an album themed to sound like nature; the lyrics delve into the integral parts of life as well—motherhood, personal growth and yearning, as well as genuine joy and contentment. It’s a reminder that while suffering usually informs a lot of the most powerful music, celebrating the joys of life in spite of those things can still bear equally poignant music.