Listening to Porridge Radio's new album, Every Bad, feels like building a tree fort only to burn it to the ground.
The Brighton rock band is led by Dana Margolin, whose vocals vacillate between gentle croons and throaty howls. While their debut, 2016's Rice, Pasta and Other Fillers, felt emblematic of the scrappy DIY scene that bred them, Every Bad contains multitudes, feeling as vast and all-consuming as the English seaside.
The album blends a plethora of inspirations, swirling together modern punk, '80s synth, and '90s shoegaze. Tracks like "Born Confused" feature a classical string section, while the eerie interlude "(Something)" AutoTunes Margolin's vocals into a robotic incantation: "Sometimes I forget to love / But that's OK / I think it is," she murmurs. It's retractions like this, a constant feeling of second-guessing, that make Every Bad so poignant.
The album is filled with immediate contradictions that suggest Margolin is working towards self-assurance but hasn't quite made it. "I am okay, all of the time / I am okay, some of the time," she roars in "Circling." "Oh, I don't know what I want / But I know what I want," she chants on "Don't Ask Me Twice." Every Bad paints two personas constantly at odds with themselves: the confident and the timid. Listening to the record feels like watching those opposites wrestle each other towards a close victory.
Other times, Margolin repeats her words with a palpable urgency. "Thank you for leaving me / Thank you for making me happy," she repeats in "Born Confused," a comforting reminder that those two instances can exist in the aftermath of a gutting breakup. But as "Thank you for making me happy" echoes a couple dozen times until the song's end, we consider: Is this happiness occurring because the relationship is over, or in spite of it ending? Or, perhaps, is this just Margolin desperately convincing herself that there's joy left to be felt?
Every Bad finds Margolin searching for herself, for her peace of mind, for all life's unanswered questions. As she "bites her nails right down to the flesh," those answers aren't always so easily found—but to join her on her quest with this stunning album is to, just maybe, find your own conclusions.