Porridge Radio gives us art that is both wrenching and beautiful.
My roommate went on four dates with a girl from OKCupid before being told that it wasn't going anywhere. I'm washing dishes, she's getting herself a snack, and she tells me she feels fine about it. Then she mentions being bummed about having already bought two tickets for them to a film. The final track on Porridge Radio's Rice, Pasta and Other Fillers is called "Eugh," a title that efficiently sums up my roommate's attitude toward the discontinuation of her budding romance: It's not so bad, really, but it's just kind of yucky to remember the things she might have done with this person she'd started to like, those abandoned plans. The song's about heartbreak, the disintegration of a much more significant relationship than the one my roommate lost. But its chorus focuses on those things that, though they might seem like small potatoes, are in fact knives twisted. "I was hoping that you'd take me for a ride in your new car / I was hoping that you'd teach me how to maybe play guitar," sings frontwoman and chief songwriter Dana Margolin. Earlier this year I got dumped myself, and it sucked, especially because I was hoping we would maybe start a band, or a blog, that we'd keep going to a bunch of shows together, and so on. It's tough saying goodbye to all that. Overall, this album explores pain, self-loathing, and instability (you can probably surmise as much based solely on its inclusion of a Daniel Johnston cover).
The opening song, "Danish Pastry Lyrics," asks, "Are you wicked like me?" Margolin shares some perplexing Google searches: "Im so fuCKING boring" and centrally, "Danish Pastry lyrics." "Danish Pastry" is actually an instrumental (aka no lyrics) song recorded by jazz pianist Oscar Peterson and trumpeter Clark Terry. It's as if we're watching Margolin teeter on the edge of something terrifying. Porridge's sound adds a shoegazey haze to something akin to Courtney Barnett's work, particularly her "Kim's Caravan," with its dark, insistent build. Rice's centerpiece, "Can U Hear Me Now?," effects a similar progression. It starts off by layering grungy guitars and droning vocals over a surprisingly jazzy drumbeat. Then Margolin's rage mounts, her growling shout set against soft, airy backing harmonies that multiply as the song goes on (which it does, for more than seven minutes). The song's chorus of voices packs a lot of meaning into a few repeated lines: "I am talking to you / I wish you were here / Can U hear me now?" they ask, over and over, demanding an answer that's just not forthcoming. Again, we're drowning in muddy thinking and self-incrimination. "My confusion is your confusion is not excusing my bad behavior," runs a line that shouldn't be clear but is; later, Margolin contradicts her own pleas to be heard, singing, "Please listen to someone else / I'm sick to death of me." Fittingly, by its end the song has devolved into chaos. The melody unravels from the beat before the whole messy thing dwindles to a whispered resolution. Rice, Pasta and Other Fillers is an album that will resonate with you if you've ever felt exhausted by yourself, if you've desired what you don't feel you deserve — and who hasn't? By pairing devastating emotion with driving instrumentals, Porridge Radio gives us art that is both wrenching and beautiful.
Listen to Porridge Radio on bandcamp.
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Eileen Marshall spends 21% of her time in a library in a museum in Chicago. She's prone to feeling, obsessing, and tweeting. Sometimes she tries to write beyond 140 characters.