Dido: Safe Trip Home

B-
Album: Safe Trip Home
Label: Arista

Lots of musicians attempt to write great songs and fail spectacularly; better off are those who aim for merely pleasant ones and greatly succeed. Dido has always fallen into the second category: unassuming, low-key, and simple. Safe Trip Home, her third album in nine years, finds her at her gentle mellowest. Dido's London-club-scene-connected background popped up occasionally on her first two records, which had a few danceable tracks, but that's off the agenda here: Safe Trip Home features 11 songs of wafting atmospherics, with the contrast of late autumn—quiet, peaceful warmth of day, followed by the tranquil, permeating chill of evening. There's nothing flashy or unexpected, and the production is whitewashed clean, but there are still some catchy moments: The slick "Grafton Street" (on which Brian Eno collaborates) surrounds like a seeping mist, "Let's Do The Things We Normally Do" plunks along to a softly orchestral, melodic chorus, and the folksy acoustic sway of "Burnin' Love" glows with emotion. It all ends with "Northern Skies," a coolly creeping nine-minute drift into the starry winter night. The album reveals nuances and feels richer with repeated plays, even though there's no single track that demands repeat listens. For songs that are just fine, they're great.

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