portishead was at the vanguard of the '90s trip-hop onslaught, and after a three-year respite, they returned with a self-titled second album to reclaim the trip-hop crown. beth gibbons is on her way to becoming the billie holiday of electronica, retaining a stoic, laconic tone while recounting tales of despair and emotional upheaval. the lazy, spacious beats that are the band's trademark provide just the right combination of urgency and tranquility to underscore the emotional contradictions at the core of portishead's music. adrian utley's delightfully creepy guitar and keyboard work adorns the proceedings tastefully and effectively. on tunes like "cowboys" and "all mine" portishead makes it plain that when it comes to arresting, unsettling electronic dance-pop, nobody does it better.