Posts tagged music review

Simply Dido

One of my Christmas presents this year was Dido’s latest album, Safe Trip Home, and I was happy to receive it.  Listening to it the last couple of weeks, made me want to write up a little bit of a tribute to her, my love story with Dido, I suppose you could call it.

I have a sort of inborn tendency to resist new music.  Or, not resist it so much as to just put off investing in a full album by an artist I’m unfamiliar with.  It’s Nietzsche’s premise that “one can never hear new music well,” or some variation of it.  Also, for me to listen to a new album, I need an uninterrupted sphere of time, so that I can absorb the sound a bit, and that can be hard for me to come by.  So, naturally, I really could have known Dido a bit longer than I have.

My first introduction to her was that her song “Here With Me” from the album No Angel was the theme song for the TV show Roswell, which I was more than addicted to as a teen.  I loved the song itself, but when my older brother—who worked at the now defunct Sam Goody’s at the time—mentioned he had the advance copy of the CD… I treated it as an “oh that’s nice.”  I was still a song-by-song music listener, and I probably couldn’t have named you full album titles of more than a very small handful of artists.

Dido was in fact one of the first to change that.  I finally took my brother up on the offer of borrowing the CD, and being the emo, romantic-tendency-filled teenager that I was… well, it was love, sure and fast.

(Roswell introduced me to a lot of fantastic music, as it happens.  I’d recommend checking out the DVD’s for that single purpose, except for the fact that by a cruel trick of fate tight-fistedness—named Jason Katims—most of the more exceptional music didn’t make it onto the DVD’s.  Do look it up on Hulu or the like, though!)

Ahem.  Dido’s dare I say soulful, ephemeral voice, matched up with songs that were by turn despondent (“Isobel,” “Honestly OK”), self-satisfied (“I’m No Angel,” “Thank You”) and cleverly caustic (“Hunter,” “Don’t Think of Me”), there was always something in the album that drew me back to it, and I was listening to No Angel Advance a good long while—months, if not a whole year—before I got over that “honeymoon phase” with the album of wanting to hear it again and again and again.  It was, in fact, the very first burned CD I ever had.  My brother made a copy for me, and I was delighted.  I would sit listening to the music, reading the liner notes about how she stole a recorder as a kid and finagled her way into music school, wondered at the number of instruments she could play, figured out (back when it was a sort-of-secret) that her last name must be Armstrong because R. had to be her brother, right?  And tried to understand the half-whispered backtracks to some of the songs.  “When I was a child I used to dream about things… my mother had, a house, a family… and… I used to think that dreams would come true…”

And then… came ” Stan.”  A track that I admit I still haven’t heard all the way through.  Eminem does a little sampling and suddenly, kaboom!  Everyone knows who Dido is.  Or at least, they’ve heard “Thank You” so many times on the radio that it’s gotten nauseating.  Sigh.

It was on the downward slope of all this that Life For Rent came out, and then again we had the radio single, “White Flag,” which was fantastic… but again, overplayed.  It put me off the album as a whole for a while.  Admittedly after I had a mini-obsession over the song myself.  What?  I was still a teenager, and like so many I adopted “White Flag” as an anthem towards an obviously dead relationship.  (A sentiment I’m glad to say is long over.)

My sister bought Life For Rent, though, and so I borrowed it.  I wasn’t very enamored with the first three tracks (“White Flag” which of course I’d heard, “Stoned” and the title song) but then… oh, a jewel.  “Mary’s in India.”  A definite story-song with a delicious twist at the end (sort of a softer, more justifiable version of Rilo Kiley’s “Does He Love You?”).  And there were intermittent other jewels as well, “See You When You’re 40,” a definite “I’m done with you” song, and my favorite, “Sand in My Shoes,” which is the complete opposite.   The final song and the hidden track (which my sister, after owning the album for months, had never heard, amazingly) are wonderful, too.

But for a while Dido became sort of synonymous with “whiny British girl singer,” at least here.  Personally I could never pretend indifference for long, though.  The truth was, she was a gateway drug for me to many, many other interesting types of female artists—Emiliana Torrini, Imogen Heap, Regina Spektor, just to name a few.

And in retrospect, I’m glad that it takes the woman so long to record an album, because now that Safe Trip Home is out, she’s almost fallen off of the popular radar.  I’ve heard “Look No Further” on the radio, but not ad nauseum, really only once or twice, and I’ve seen no big hullabaloo made about the album itself, which wasn’t entirely true about Life For Rent.   Not that I’ve been looking for it, either, but still.

The CD as a whole is still fairly new to me, and I don’t have a formed opinion on every song as yet, but it’s a very easy album to listen.  Not as hard as No Angel, but that’s understandable, considering it’s a decade later in her life.  There’s a melancholy to the album, but it’s not a hopeless or extreme one, and the song “The Day Before the Day,” about her father’s death, is very subtle and all the better for it.  This album feels as if Dido, who I’ve loved in her many forms, has come into her own, as weak and cliché as those words might be.  Nothing here is trying to be pop, or trying to be anything, it’s simply Dido, and it’s very good.

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