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Portishead: Dummy

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1994 was a splendid year for music. At least, we thought so then. As 2004 comes to a close, we're taking a look at some of the albums that tripped our triggers ... can it have been ten years back?

British band Portishead came onto the music scene in 1994 with their moody electronica release Dummy. The first single, "Sour Times," introduced us to singer Beth Gibbons's tightly controlled, plaintive wail, and the album's heavy beats melded with crunchy samples and ethereal vocals. The stuttering beat and spy-movie mien of "Sour Times" underlies a ravaged murmur as Gibbons sings like a torch singer trying to power her way out of a clenched (or strangled) throat. Portishead would later go on to produce just one other original album and one live album, and Beth Gibbons's released a solo album in late 2003. But it is 1994's Dummy that is the most haunting album in the Portishead franchise. Songs like "Wandering Star," with Gibbons's crystalline whisper across a heartbeat rhythm, or the seductive, world-weary ingenue moaning her way through "Glory Box," are typical of this uncanny, darkly intimate brand of British dance/trip-hop. This album makes a music lover long for the days before Britney, Christina and their ilk.

--Sara Beitia

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