Still On My Mind
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Across four original studio albums spanning two decades, British singer-songwriter Dido has been something of a steady figure in the face of changing chart tastes. Her material has been sought for use as television themes, featured in countless films and reworked for hip-hop sampling purposes—there’s a power to that kind of popular music permanence. But, that type of affable ubiquity doesn’t occur in a vacuum; central to the continual appeal of Dido’s music is its uncanny blend of subtle and demonstrative sonic aestheticism.
From Dido’s penchant for relatable “slice of life” drama contained within her songwriting, to her cool, but affecting vocal demeanor, both skills pair well with whatever genres Dido chooses to map out and explore on her albums. Subsequently, Dido records reward loyal, discerning audiences with additional dimensions rife for discovery.
Still On My Mind—Dido’s fifth studio project and first for the BMG label—comes at a historical junction for the vocalist. Set just three months before the twentieth anniversary of her debut No Angel (1999), a lesser singer might be intimidated to release a new body of work so close to another iconic song cycle—not Dido. While undoubtedly possessing a flair for consistency regarding her musical identity, each record she’s put forth has moved the dial forward in some fashion or another. Still On My Mind is no exception to this self-made standard.
With Dido leading on the songwriting and production front—select co-writing/co-producing support credits include Guy Sigsworth, Si Hulbert, Rick Nowels, Ryan Louder—she only invites her brother, Faithless co-founder Rollo Armstrong, to join her in a principle creative capacity. This lean approach is perfect for Still On My Mind, a collection presenting Dido’s aural interests and vocal habits honed to a modern, refined edge.
In the past, descriptors like folktronica, adult alternative or dance have been thrown around when discussing the contents of a Dido LP. These tags aren’t misplaced, in fact many of them could be applied to any of the sides on Still On My Mind. However, these genres are rewired here, sometimes radically, to make sounds that are wholly unique unto Dido herself.
Take the pensive lead-off track “Hurricanes,” it opens with a moody sample loop and a recurring acoustic guitar riff that bounce off one another; this yields a certain tension that Dido uses as an ideal vehicle to carry her story of romantic duress. When the song reaches its eventual crescendo at the two-minute mark, the organic and inorganic musical vibes form a beautiful, coalescent composition with a daringly experimental pop undertow all its own.
“Hurricanes” and each of the entries that follow this opening salvo impressively control the production tempo, adjusting it as required to whatever the individual track calls for. So, whether Dido is exuding hymnal poise on “Some Kind of Love” or the partaking in a bit of clubby pleasure on “Take You Home,” the production for each of these is outfitted to the specifications of those songs.
Further, with her genteel, evocative voice, Dido displays her (still) brilliant ability to portray herself as either a direct participant or distant observer in her own works. On the balmy, transportive groove of “You Don’t Need a God,” Dido lends an unassuming, but ultimately passionate spark to the song’s script while alternating between the roles of participant and observer: “I can hear the music / Just a few notes from a passing car / And it can take me, with heart opening speed / To somewhere not here / And I’m held stock still by the sight of something / Nothing much to see, but enough to catch me / And send me absolutely elsewhere.”
The vocal, lyrical and arrangement levels all function superbly throughout the runtime of Still On My Mind; it makes for an absorbing listen. By the time the elegant curtain call of “Have to Stay” arrives, the listener is assuredly left wanting more. Twenty years on from her initial step into the public spotlight, Dido’s brand of sonic intimacy—drawn up to an ever-grand, yet approachable scale—is as enchanting as it was then and isn’t likely to diminish anytime soon.
Notable Tracks: "Have to Stay" | “Hurricanes” | "Some Kind of Love" | “Take You Home”
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