Love Letter To A Record: Two People On Portishead’s ‘Dummy’


Written by Phoebe Lou on January 16, 2019

Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.

In this series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.

Phoebe Lou, Two People – Dummy by Portishead

This record taught me a feeling. It had something to do with seduction, art, bravery, a new kind of sound, fragility and aggression. It’s different to anything I’ll ever hear again. That really freaks me out actually.

I think the first time I ever heard ‘Roads’ it was playing on the radio. I was about 12 in the car and I was totally freaked. Leaning into the speaker I just caught the end of “something something Portishead”. I remember thinking that name was really gruesome, I didn’t like it. I found Dummy in my parents CD collection and listened to it on repeat. I was fully hooked in this weirdly private way, like I had this secret and nobody was allowed to know. I think for the first time I was hearing a record that was deeply emotional and which wasn’t afraid to show it – it wasn’t underestimating its listener. That was a totally empowering moment in music for me. Almost like it was saying, “here, cop this, you can handle it” and it totally threw me. ‘Roads’ was on just about every CD mix I ever burnt and the track felt the same on every shitty soundsystem that I played it through.

I was starting to write songs around the time. Real songy-songs with personal lyrics, traditional arrangements and my brother’s guitar. I’ll always be a slave to the ‘song’ – the story telling and the emotionally moving. I think what struck me so much about Dummy wasn’t just its dark production tone, it was that the songs were so powerful. Loops, textural beats and beautiful electronic sounds and arrangements that weren’t compromising or compromised by the song. They exist together, making the other better – a very rugged tenderness.

I don’t think Dummy is a deliberate artistic statement, it’s an expression. A really good one. It has this natural slow pace, minor keys, it’s a soundtrack to a dark movie. It’s not telling a sad story, it just happens to be on the sad side.

Dummy, you taught me to listen deeply, familiarise with the darker stuff and eat it up.

May this love affair continue.

Phoebe Lou,
Two People

Two People’s debut record First Body is out this Friday, January 18. Pre-order here.


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