Portishead – “Roads”

You know what would be cool? If Portishead announced that they were back and putting out a new record like next week or something.

Come on, all the weirdest, wildest, and worst things in the world are happening right now, so could we just…get a new record? I know y’all prolly busy and everyone dealing with their own shit right now, but a new Portishead album would be a nice little thing.

I’ve been back on a Portishead kick this week, as the group recently posted on their Instagram account and, once again, didn’t announce any music. They’re one of my favorites, a lounge act gone to hell, featuring the delicate, wretched aura of vocalist Beth Gibbons, singing torch songs over starkly experimental and often meticulously lo-fi production from Geoff Barrow and Adrian Utley.

It’s a potent mix, and not surprising that the group has had a major influence on popular music, helping to introduce the torpid, brooding genre increasingly called “trip-hop” to America along with Massive Attack, and inspiring artists from all across the spectrum to adopt a cool, “comfortably numb”-type detachedness to their music.

Portishead’s 1994 debut Dummy is an intoxicating experience. Hearing Gibbons’ haunting performances over lush, lonesome soundscapes makes for an unsettling and unforgettable listen. Though not my fave Portishead album (I gravitate between their ’97 self-titled and 2008’s Third), this is a landmark record.

A fun fact about “Roads”: Gibbons invented ASMR when she smacked her lips on the closing moments of this song! I don’t know if that’s true, but let’s just pretend. This one is a highlight, a quietly vulnerable moment, driven on by echoing Rhodes keyboard hits, beautiful strings, and Gibbons’ utterly powerful performance. A desolate and emotional listen.

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