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Dido safely makes it home - finally

November 17, 2008
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Dido
Safe Trip Home (Arista
ESSENTIAL "Northern Skies"

It's taken nine years and two tries, but Dido has finally given her debut the follow-up it deserves. The singer easily bests 2003's "Life for Rent" by forgoing radio-friendly "Thank You" clones in favor of following her muse where it's been leading since the millennium. In the case of "Safe Trip Home," that means finally indulging the trip-hop jones she hinted at on her never ending "No Angel" tour. For nearly nine minutes, the song "Northern Skies" is pushed along by a subterranean bass and a dry but inexorable beat, and the combination carries the groove to the end, even as electronic flourishes drip over them. "Grafton Street" and "Never Want to Say It's Love" play it lighter, resulting in a chillout vibe similar to Air or Goldfrapp's "Seventh Tree," while "The Day Before the Day" is electronica without the electronics. Whatever the backdrop, Dido's voice retains the warmth at its core, no matter how flat her sleepwalking affect seems to be. Her vocals are subdued not out of indifference but out of sublimation; she seems to measure every word in the rattling, gently orchestral "Look No Further" for fear of what will happen if she drops her guard. "Safe Trip Home" might lack the hooks of Dido's earlier work, but even if it doesn't get under your skin it manages to take you somewhere worth the journey. (Out tomorrow)

MARC HIRSH

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