Apple Music 100 Best Albums

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The Bristol, UK, band’s debut forged the soothing, discomfiting sound of trip-hop.

Few debuts have arrived as distinct and fully formed as Portishead’s 1994 release Dummy, a downtempo template for the eerie sound that would go on to become known as trip-hop. Named after a ’70s British TV drama about a deaf woman who becomes a prostitute, the record is replete with turntable scratches, shuddering drums, and scrapes of fragmented guitar, all anchored in vocalist Beth Gibbons’ crystalline falsetto singing about “the blackness, the darkness, forever” (“Wandering Star”).

“We had to kind of be strong with our ideas about what we did and didn’t want to do.”

Geoff Barrow


Standout tracks like “Sour Times” and “Glory Box” lull the listener into a trance of cinematic string swells, crisp drum grooves, and Gibbons’ velvet vocals—a sound that became ubiquitous among contemporaries like Morcheeba, Mono, and Sneaker Pimps, and even led Dummy to be misclassified as pacifying music. But don’t be fooled: It luxuriates in discomfort, as capable of soothing the listener with its warm melodies as it is of jarring them. Dummy is a record for night dwellers, everywhere and always.