Dido Remains Singular and Special on 'Still on My Mind'
Still on My Mind is another rich outing for Dido in every way, with some truly awe-inspiring combinations of singer-songwriter radiance and novel sonic juxtapositions.
Still on My Mind
8 March 2019
Although she's perhaps still regarded most for her 2000 single "Thank You" (and its subsequent sampling on Eminem's "Stan"), English musician Dido has had a fruitful career beyond that early breakthrough. True, she's only released a few albums over the past 20 years, but each has both retained and expanded upon her beloved trademarks and laudable songwriting (so her career is a case of quality of quantity thus far). Luckily, her fifth LP, Still on My Mind, is no exception. An excellent mixture of pop, hip-hop, folk, and electronic elements, it's a continuously cherishable sequence that once again cements Dido as a singular artist.
The follow-up to 2013's Girl Who Got Away, Still on My Mind finds Dido once again working with several producers and co-writers, including her brother, Rollo (himself a renowned remixer and co-founder of electronic music troupe Faithless). It was this desire for sibling collaboration that sparked her creating the record in the first place, as she specifies in the press release: "To be honest, this album was almost accidental. I woke up one morning and thought I just want to work with my [him]... We're great together, I enjoy the company, and we are so in sync." Without a doubt, the pair — as well as their creative partners — fashion topics like motherhood and the ups and downs of love into another idiosyncratic and striking entry in Dido's catalog.
While just about every track her offers a satisfying blend of varied music and valuable songwriting, there are a few places in which the latter category truly shines. Opener "Hurricanes" is easily among the best inclusions here due to its evocative evolution from sparse confessional (consisting of only her voice and some oscillating guitar notes) to a tour-de-force of impassioned vocal layers and programmed symphonic timbres. It's quite powerful, as are the majestic interlocking voices, empowered lyricism, and subtle piano chords of its immediate successor, "Give You Up".
Later, the choral "You Don't Need a God" is gorgeously pure and uplifting, whereas "Some Kind of Love" is deeply effective due to its fusion of downtrodden acoustic guitar arpeggios and angelically cathartic singing. Afterward, "Walking By" becomes sobering and profound with its piano patterns and build-up of orchestral strings and percussion. As for closer "Have to Stay", its echoed vocals and transcendental background beautifully captures the cognitive dissonance of realizing that you'll have to let your child leave the nest someday ("Cos that's what love is, darling / I'm here as long as you need / When you show you're okay on your own / I'll smile and leave"). It's the most straightforward piece on Still on My Mind, yet it's also the most profound and lingering.
Elsewhere, the arrangements and production take center stage. "Hell After This" would still be solid if stripped down, but it's the ever-changing concoctions of beats, strings, backing chants, piano, horns, land guitar strums that make it most interesting instrumentally. Likewise, electronic additions such as "Take You Home", "Friends", and "Mad Love" are more superficially and nostalgically danceable (honestly, they feel plucked from mid to late 1990s radio, which isn't necessarily a bad thing). That said, the penultimate "Chances" fares better at surrounding a heartfelt lead performance with an arresting coat of stacked voices, computerized syncopation, and swirling tones.
Still on My Mind is another rich outing for Dido in every way. At its peak, it provides awe-inspiring combinations of singer/songwriter radiance and novel sonic manipulations and juxtapositions; at its weakest, it's still innovative and diverse enough to appeal to specific audiences and maintain Dido and company's willingness to expand their palettes and take their listeners to different places. That's what all artists should do, so Still on My Mind proves commendable from start to finish.