cd reviews pop/rock

Portishead, "Third" (Mercury)

It has been more than a decade between studio releases by British trip-hop pioneers Portishead, but the dramatic gap in time hasn't sapped any of the trio's freshness or creativity. "Third" serves up more stylish noir rock. This album is bursting with paradox. On the twisted torch song "Hunter," which belongs in a David Lynch film, Beth Gibbons' witchy yet vulnerable vocals are offset by distorted guitar riffs. The looping, chiming guitars and hypnotic beat of "Nylon Smile" somehow perfectly match Gibbons' self-doubt. The fractured fairy tale "The Rip," given extra eeriness by purposefully flawed guitar picking, leads into an unexpected, breathtaking electro-synth race. 5311


Gavin DeGraw, "Gavin DeGraw" (J)

There are two kinds of songs on the second album by this hook-savvy singer-songwriter: those about love and one about other stuff. DeGraw tries to fill out and roughen up his sound, enlisting modern-rock producer Howard Benson. The results don't suggest reinvention so much as a slight twist. "In Love With a Girl" features a rousing chorus much like the one on DeGraw's Top 10 hit "I Don't Want to Be." Shifting his instrumental focus from piano to guitar, he ventures into John Mayer territory. DeGraw's love songs offer reassurances, promises and faint recriminations, working best when he addresses a lover directly. The big duds are "Relative" and "Medicate the Kids." DeGraw performs Thursday at KDWB's Star Party at the Myth in Maplewood. 5312


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