The Lowdown: Many Americans might only know Dido for two or three songs: “Thank You” and “White Flag”, perhaps, or the haunting chorus on Eminem’s “Stan”. But her particular brand of power pop has been a major presence on the UK charts since 1999. This means that in her own unassuming way, Dido has managed 20 successful years in the music industry. She didn’t tour after her third album, Safe Trip Home, because the subject matter — the death of her father — was too painful to perform. After her fourth album, 2013’s Girl Who Got Away, Dido went on sabbatical. Her upcoming international tour will be her first such venture in 15 years. Dido favors simple, soaring melodies, which she delivers in a ghostly mezzo soprano. Still on My Mind is her fifth studio album, and her second in a row to dip into hip-hop and EDM.
(Interview: Dido on Her Return and the Freedom of Now)
The Good: The album opens with a dramatic swell on “Hurricanes”. It’s a song about growing old together, with storms standing in for the passage of time. “Hurricanes” starts simply enough, with soft words and a gently plucked guitar. It gathers momentum as Dido harmonizes with herself, but it really grows in power with the introduction of electric clicks and stuttering samples. “Mad Love” builds a bouncy dance number out of some sparkly synths, and here, too, Dido sounds perfectly at home. Her ethereal voice just fits in everywhere. She can still rip into piano ballads, like on her song about leaving a lover, “Give You Up”, and she’s a lot of fun on the slinky, sexy, “Hell After This”. Still on My Mind sounds effortless. Let others strain themselves. Dido has a light touch; Dido has found power in letting go.
The Bad: One person’s relaxing is another person’s dull, and Still on My Mind is sure to be too smooth for some. Dido and her producers have done a good job of mixing up song lengths and varying the tempos to keep the tracks from sounding mushed together. But at the end of the day, this isn’t music with hard edges, and perhaps a little mushiness is inevitable.
The Verdict: With tales of leaving, longing, and loving her son, Still on My Mind is a warm bathtub full of power pop. Twenty years in, Dido knows what she’s good at, even as she’s learned some new tricks. She makes these influences seem perfectly natural and has stretched herself without sounding frayed.
Essential Tracks: “Hurricanes”, “Mad Love”, and “Hell After This”
Buy: Get all your Dido vinyl here.