Apple Music 100 Best Albums

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Blue Lines

Massive Attack


From Bristol, UK, a pioneering mix of soothing soul and simmering paranoia.

Inspired by the reggae music of the Caribbean diaspora in their native Bristol as much as by nascent UK rap, DJ and MC collective Massive Attack forged a new aesthetic by mixing remarkable clarity with the paranoid fug of weed smoke. This tension between unease and harmony continues throughout their debut, but ultimately it’s the album’s most well-known track, “Unfinished Sympathy,” where they reach their peak: Pairing luscious string orchestrations with eerie vocal samples and singer Shara Nelson’s yearning vocal lamenting an unrequited love, Massive Attack creates five minutes of soul music that stirs as much as it soothes.

The group would go on to be labeled innovators of a new laidback genre called “trip-hop,” spawning dozens of imitators and hundreds of chill-out playlists. Yet there is nothing relaxed about Blue Lines: Amid its euphoric melodies is an ominous vocal, and between its groove there is a bassline breaking almost to distortion. There is always a reason to look back over your shoulder.

“I’ve never been an idealist, but I felt it could change other people’s lives because of what we were doing.”


Massive Attack