Still On My Mind (BMG)
Whether or not you’re a believer in self-fulfilling prophecy, there’s an odd sensation to come when listening to Still On My Mind. And not because – or maybe not only because – the record’s title already sounds like a hope tendril sent out in the ether by the English singer releasing her fifth album.
There’s a character described in the song Some Kind Of Love who presumably is not Dido Armstrong. Or indeed Dido Florian Cloud de Bounevialle O’Malley Armstrong, sister of co-writer/producer/woefully under-named Rowland Constantine O’Malley Armstrong. But she would appear to be someone who might have listened to a Dido album in the past.
“She found the records lying underneath the bed, all the songs she used to sing/All the songs she used to play, all those words, those melodies/And the promise of some kind of love …. Don’t think anything will feel as good again.”
Songs of solace that spoke to you like an undemanding friend? The shoulder to cry on when beastly things have happened to you? The comforter on the cold nights alone? All those things Dido offered 20 years ago. It’s why she was the musical boon companion.
But then she describes further, hearing “The songs haven’t changed, every note just the same … like better days, passed and gone, leaving her behind.” Actually, Dido, now that you mention it …
Still On My Mind is exactly what Dido fans who have been with her since her 1999 debut, No Angel, wanted in 2005. And 2010. And, presumably, 2019: a continuation of her guiding principles that sounding sad but not distraught, rhythmic but not vigorous, lightly brushed by folk but not those odd harmonies, nodding to electronica and soul without looking either of them in the eye, will smooth the kinks in your life for about 45 minutes.
Take You Home’s gentle club beats and shimmery overlays is warming up for a night out which will end up as a night in. Mad Love has a frothy cocktail’s worth of Caribbean flavour to hint at post-sunset warmth, while Chances, with its Enya-esque keyboard beds/astral plane voices is the hand holding yours “until tomorrow comes” and you can face that first weak tea of the day.
Maintaining this gentle on my mind feel means even the most in your face (relatively speaking) track here, Hell After This - which begins with an early ‘80s drum machine beat ala Dare period Human League and parping brass – finds Dido draped over the beat like it was a chaise longue. Where you’d like to be.
So what’s wrong with that? Absolutely nothing. It’s all yours if that is what rocks, ever so slightly, your boat. There’s no need for Dido to speed up a beat, assert an emotion more intense than mildly disappointed with life, or change her formula just because for some of us listening to it is akin to being waterboarded for a year by a moist towelette.
Honestly, I just don’t know how she does it and stays awake through it all, but hey, more (low wattage) power to her I say.
(A version of this review was first published in the Sydney Morning Herald.)