Format: Digital (Spotify)
“Dummy” broke down doors for Portishead and stands today as a trip hop classic.
It ushered in the genre, cribbing from hip-hop and downtempo electronic music to its own beast. It also earned Portishead England’s Grammy equivalent, the Mercury Prize.
“Dummy” maintains an icy calm throughout, thanks to liberal use of the Rhodes piano and Hammond organ. “It Could Be Sweet” takes only a Rhodes lick and some drum machine effects to create all the atmosphere it needs.
What ties it all together is Beth Gibbons, a contralto whose ability to soar above the simplicity remains the album’s best selling point. “Give me a reason to be a woman,” she gripes in the single “Glory Box,” a woman frazzled by the drama of her relationship.
Despite its themes, Portishead’s “Dummy” manages to be relatable rather than alienate its listener. It’s a fine line to walk, but Gibbons’ voice helps invite the listener into her troubles and the music underscores the range of emotions she is feeling.
It’s no wonder “Dummy” is so well-remembered.
Our Music Year is Daily Republic popular culture writer Nick DeCicco’s yearlong online review in 2012 of albums he had previously not listened to. The reviews will appear in print on their corresponding days during 2013. Reach him at 427-6966 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ndeciccodr.