Portishead’s third studio album, the aptly titled Third, may at first seem like a departure from the Bristol trio’s previous productions. It may be that pop has been replaced by darkness. The record’s first three bare-bones tracks hint that something may be missing. Regardless, the dozing and listless “Hunter” is the one to skip back to at the end of the first play-through. While “Plastic” and “Machine Gun” bring to the forefront the synth and sample-heavy sounds Portishead are known for, “Nylon Smile” showcases singer Beth Gibbons’s signature smooth and chilling voice, which would be the single consistent element of Third if not for the inexplicably folky and playful “Deep Water.” Yet despite the variety, stem to stern, Third still manages to run a tight ship.

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