You’ll want to hear this album over and over again.
There’s power in repetition. You see in mantras, therapy, sports chants, political rallies and other aspects of life. It’s more than sloganeering. It’s when words mean something to the ones saying them, and have an impact on those who listen. The belief in those phrases are what makes them compelling. That tenet is the cornerstone of the strength behind Every Bad by Porridge Radio, a fantastic breakthrough that surrounds Dana Margolin’s voice and lyrics with a swirl of fierce, creative soundscapes.
Every song on this album displays Porridge Radio’s skill at building tension, following by stormy release. On “Sweet,” spindly touches of guitars are picked, then submerged in a wave of distorted chords. “My mum says that I look like a nervous wreck/ Because I bite my nails right down to the flesh,” Margolin sings, her steady voice shot through with a growing rage and frustration. It’s all controlled for the most part, but when the band cuts loose, it’s meteoric. “Don’t Ask Me Twice” is similar in its delivery, with tightly strummed chords and percussion sounding like a warped parade. Every time Margolin screams, it’s the sound of a dam breaking.
The lyrics connect through their directness and passion, with Margolin able to get across the most complex feelings with simple phrases. On “Born Confused,” she gives a kiss-off to an ex-lover, singing “Thank you for making me happy,” sincere in her joy over the end of the relationship. On “Give/Take,” her ambition conflicts with her desire, seeing all the upsides of pursuing a romance but choosing music instead. “Don’t you know that I want more,” she sings, with straightforward guitar lines running alongside a droning ‘80s synth.
It’s not all stories of love and loss though. In the creeping ballad of “Pop Song,” Margolin struggles with the idea of home. While she knows she can’t stay where she lives now, she desperately wants to find a place where she belongs. “Please make me feel safe,” she sings, the deep-seated longing underneath her loathing.
No song summarizes all that makes Porridge Radio excel like “Lilac,” the album’s crowning achievement and easily one of the best songs you’ll hear all year. Starting with feathery guitars and windswept violins, it finds Margolin trapped between kindness, a need for connection and self-preservation. “I don’t want to get bitter, I want us to get better/ I want us to be kinder to ourselves and each other,” she belts out as a mantra, as the music rises and cascades upon itself until it feels infinite and endless. You’ll want to smile, cry, sing along and turn the volume up until it encompasses everything. It’s a towering achievement.
While they thrive in distortion and forceful vibrations, Porridge Radio closes out Every Bad with songs that stretch their musical muscles in different ways. “Circling” opens with a carnival melodica, before guitars buzz like a fly hovering around your head. “Everything is fine,” Margolin insists flatly, before admitting, “I am okay/ Some of the time.” It’s an unglued waltz. On “(Something),” with only a seething guitar hum and rumbling drums for accompaniment, Margolin sings with an Auto-Tune effect that creates a disconnected, alien feel to her vocals. After so much raw singing, the change of pace makes her vocals stand out in a whole new way.
To close, “Homecoming Song” introduces another fresh element, a hypnotic drumbeat that could easily be slotted into a chart-topping pop tune. But the guitar chords slide like splashing water. “I’m a sinking ship/ There’s nothing inside,” she sings with weariness, as if the emotional trials of the entire album have left her drained.
You’ll likely feel the same way after listening to this record. But it’s the type of exhaustion that arrives hand-in-hand with satisfaction and emotional release. You’ll take a breath and already be thinking about restarting the whole experience. Every Bad is an exhilarating listen that not only matches but exceeds the hype surrounding Porridge Radio. You’ll want to hear it over and over again. After all, there’s power in repetition.