17. Portishead, Dummy (Polygram, 1994)

Suggested alternate title: Spooky. A decade on, this quintessential trip-hop album holds up far more sturdily than you'd expect. For all of its noir-drenched gloom, Dummy remains accessible and oddly inviting because instrumentalist Geoff Barrows and strange chanteuse Beth Gibbons (perhaps the '90s equivalent of Nico?) paid as much mind to song structure and melody as they did to tension, mood, texture and cannily-employed samples. When they tried again with Portishead three years later, they somehow screwed up that synergy--the songs just didn't blossom as they do so fluently here. Supposedly, they also made a short film called To Kill a Dead Man to accompany this album, and it's a wonder why Barrows didn't do more scoring--you don't even have to rent When The Cat's Away to imagine how flawlessly the steadily shattering album closer "Glory Box" lends itself to a film's credits roll.