‘Still On My Mind’, set for release on March 8, is the first album from Dido in five years, and nearly didn’t happen.
Speaking to The Sun, the singer said,
Not a lot of thought went into the whole thing. It was a joyous experience. On this record I just felt a need to be with my brother and people I am close to. I wanted it to be a really small, simple, quite emotional family-and-friends thing.
I’ve lived in London my whole life but this one day I’d gone for a walk and was seeing it like I’d never seen it before.
I was thinking about being a mum and my family. Suddenly it became completely clear that I wanted to hang out with my brother – and the way to do that is to make a record.
It felt like the only way I wanted to do it. I felt a need to be with my brother and people that I am close to. It was very clear to me.
Having listened to the album a few times in the past week, we’re really glad that the accident happened.
The twelve track album opens with ‘Hurricanes’, and this is the Dido we’re most familiar with. Her voice is rich and mellifluous, five years’ absence from recording has done nothing to the perfect quality of her vocals. There’s an absolutely gorgeous echoing that starts about halfway through, the sound a hurricane would make if God were a synthesiser-using musician. However, it’s the last third of the track, the point at which the instrumentals drop out entirely and we’re left only with Dido’s exquisite vocals, that we realise truly, that she’s back. The track was produced by Rick Nowells, who’s worked in the past with Lana Del Rey, Stevie Nicks, and Madonna, and clearly understands how to produce female vocals.
‘Give You Up’ follows on, and opens up a lot like ‘Thank You’, and it’s difficult to not expect that familar refrain to start up. But it doesn’t, and it’s still a fantastic opportunity for Dido to show off her vocal ability. The backing vocals are haunting and mystical and we realise just how closely Dido’s sound comes to that of Enya. This comes up again later on in the album, on the penultimate ‘Chances’, which reminds us incredibly of ‘White Flag’. It’s so familiar that we begin singing it from the start. We’d really love to see a collaboration between Dido and Enya, and their respective fans should be fighting for this.
There’s a real trend for 60s influenced songs lately – see Emma Bunton’s latest release ‘Baby Please Don’t Stop’ for example – and track 3, ‘Hell After This’ follows this and, like evey other song on this album, does it elegantly and beautifully. It’s thumping and pumping, and Dido’s vocals are just on fire. We love this – actually, we love, love, love this.
Track four is ‘You Don’t Need A God’, and at this point we feel we’ve been lulled into a false sense of security with the Old Skool Dido. Suddenly it’s all POW and we’re dropped into a different sound altogether – a blend of old and new – and it’s pretty damned awesome. It’s got Dido’s familiar vocals but there’s a powerful pumping beat that gets us in from the start. We’re overwhelmed by how much Dido’s voice has been treated as an instrument, and the backing vocals laid overtop sounding as much like a synth as the synths themselves. Lyrically it’s feisty and ferocious, it’s a girl power anthem and a half, with Dido telling another,
You don’t need a god
It’s great out here
you don’t need a god
stay out here
Oh and did we mention her vocals are to die for? The last third is where it all comes together and becomes an absolute aural feast.
‘Take You Home’ doesn’t just take us home but it takes us to the future. It sounds every bit like a dance remix and we realise that Dido’s voice would be perfect for any EDM artist to feature – so along with our call out to Enya, we’ll put out a call to Darude, Chicane, and Armin van Buuren – you’ve all been sleeping on Dido’s vocals and we think you ought to check her out for your next House track!
Track 6, ‘Some Kind Of Love’, is light and airy, delicious and ethereal, efferevescent. It’s basically just Dido’s voice, guitar, and some wavery instrumentation, but it’s just fab. Fab. Fab. The song sounds autobiographical, talking about her music, but on the other hand, it could equally apply to the loss of a loved one:
when we lose what we love don’t think anything will ever taste the same
when we lose what we love don’t think anything will ever feel as good again
now I know how much the anger however much the pain
destroy only enough that enough still remains
Beautiful. We challenge anyone listening to this not to cry.
Title track, ‘Still On My Mind’, is synth-led, and feels half spoken, half sung. We’re enjoying the light touches of male backing vocals, wondering if it’s Dido’s brother Rollo, whose hand is visible all over this album. We find the synthesiser very appealing, and we enjoy the inflection Dido makes with her voice. Dido will be touring this album and in listening we’re becoming more and more excited about what she’ll be singing.
Changing sound completely – there’s a lot of these swift changes in this album and it’s great – track 8 ‘Mad Love’ is electric guitar and bass led, with a vaguely Caribbean/Calypso feel to it. There’s also a super drum beat which will get the listener bopping. It’s instantly memorable, both lyrically and melodically, and the chorus, which starts up after a Phil Collins style drum roll, will have you singing. There’s a great bit at the end of this track where Dido repeats the Mad Love refrain over and over like a broken record. Have we mentioned we’re really enjoying this album?
We’re well and truly in the last third of the album now, and the piano-based ninth track, ‘Walking By’, is basically an empowering, two finger salute to somebody.
Please stop telling everybody that I did it for you
Cos every step I take I’m always here without you
And I don’t need words or anything from you
I wish I’d never seen it kept on walking by
I wish I’d never met you kept on walking by
I wish I’d never tried it kept on walking by
I wish I’d never felt it
Who? Who has wounded Dido so deeply? Besides our utter despair that someone would hurt Dido, we enjoyed the echoey bits and the orchestral drumming.
‘Friends’ is a groovy, Duffy style track, very 60s again. Upbeat, finger tapping, finger snapping. Again, we wonder who’s betrayed Dido though – there’s sadness in the lyrics:
don’t come crying to me
don’t come try again
no matter how I feel don’t call us friends
We’ve mentioned track 11, ‘Chances’, further up, so we’re left with the final song, ‘Have To Stay’, which is a very very Celtic based track. It feels as though it’s a homage to her much loved father, William Armstrong, who died back in 2008, and who had sung traditional Irish songs to Dido and Rollo as children. She’s already dedicated her third album, ‘Safe Trip Home’ to him but this does sound like a fitting tribute as well. We’re brought to mind of Mark Knopfler’s soundtrack for ‘Local Hero’; although that was Scottish, not Irish, it still retains much of the same Celtic sound. We’d love to see this used in a film.
There’s not a song on here that we could have left off this album. From start to finish, ‘Still On My Mind’ is a masterpiece, and much as we’re glad to have Dido back, we really hope she doesn’t leave it another five years until she releases her next album, because hers is such a talent too good to be squandered.
‘Still On My Mind’ is out this Friday, March 8, through BMG, and can be pre-ordered here.
Dido sets off on her world tour on May 5 in Prague. For further information about tickets and tour dates, see her official website.