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CD of The Week

Week of 6/06/22

    Porridge Radio - Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder To The Sky (Secretly Canadian)

    2020 was supposed to be Porridge Radio's big year. Their breakthrough album, Every Bad, was one of the best indie rock albums in recent memory, scoring them prime spots on multiple noteworthy year-end lists (including a few of our own DJs) and a Mercury Prize nomination to boot. Alas, not long after the initial release and buzz for the album, well... basically every bad actually happened in the world. Those bads no doubt inform the band's new album, Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder to the Sky, along with what seem to be several additional, more personal bads for frontperson Dana Margolin that anyone of age, or at least this current age, can relate to. It's a confident and cathartic set that tackles a myriad of disillusions about life, love, and loss.

    On paper, the idea of revisiting the existential concerns that may have crept in during that long year stuck at home may seem too triggering, but Margolin revisits those woes through a lens of hard-earned wisdom. First single "Back to the Radio," funnily enough, finds her reflecting on the idea of locking down months before it was mandated, the better to face a future of stress and exposure that never quite came to be. "Lock all the windows and march up the stairs. And you're looking to me, but I'm so unprepared for it. Nothing's the same and I swear that I'm haunted." Again, they were unintentionally jinxing us with words that couldn't possibly have anticipated taking on a more urgent, universal sentiment but Margolin ends up landing on a crucial truth that could pave a path toward collective healing: "We cannot get better if we don't talk about it"

    And so the band does, across 12 more tracks that are both more expansive musically and more pointed lyrically, all the better to match their continued caged animal intensity and Margolin's end of rope vocals, which recall any number of people from Conor Oberst (himself no stranger to songs about life more or less sucking) to PJ Harvey (herself no stranger to reflections on said suckage). New single "The Rip" is both the climax and emotional pivot point of the album. Broadening the band's dalliance with electronics at the end of their last album into borderline synth-pop, Margolin laments knowing what she wants for herself and how she threw it away out of fear, at times recalling the dearly disappeared Diamond Rings.

    But as the song progresses and climax, ambiguity creeps in on whether the refrain of "I threw it away" is tragic or necessary. That's the thing about pain and hardship. In hindsight, some sadness feels smaller or at least shrunk by what was learned from it. Porridge Radio know how to shrink the sadness by sharing it, by letting us feel ours in full in order to hopefully let it go. Even the title tips the band's hand as a poignant metaphor. It can be scary to slide or jump, but you gotta do it if you hope to climb back up and try again.

    Porridge Radio is slated to play Philadelphia at Johnny Brenda’s on September 24th.
    Review by Rob Huff

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