366 Songs 322: Magic Doors

I still remember the first time I heard “Magic Doors,” and realized that Portishead had somehow managed to refine its sound from the cliche of Trip Hop, and yet remain emotionally consistent with everything that had come before. There is such sorrow and melancholy in this track; it’s not just Beth Gibbons’ voice, or the words she’s singing (“I can’t deny or hide from me/I don’t know who I’m meant to be”). Is it the constantly-downward synthetic strings, or the finality of the piano when it appears? I don’t know; whereas earlier Portishead had a retro cool to it, this song – and a lot of Third, the album it comes from – is purposefully dissonant and awkward in its beauty. The opening tone that crashes into the drums… It’s utterly compelling, but somehow difficult to listen to at the same time. You struggle through this song, in a way, but in such a way that the entire thing feels curiously enriching nonetheless.

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