Dido's songs ring so true and captivate so easily despite how many times you've heard them, it's amazing to think it's been over five years since her last release. Her journey from new fresh face to mature songwriter continues as she takes another stylistic turn. Dido previously made some changes from debut to sophomore effort, using softer melodies and understated contentment to capture the listener. This time, she's gone even further down that road, utilizing live instrumentations in a way we haven't yet heard from her. The results are captivating and welcoming.
During these last few years, Dido lived in Los Angeles, took long drives through the desert, worked with various renowned producers and writers, and lost her father. The last event undoubtedly affected her writing most, and it was those producers that helped bring her creations to life in the most vibrant way. Jon Brion, Brian Eno, Citizen Cope and Rick Nowels all contributed to the making of the album, and Dido's ever-present brother Rollo made his own mark on several tracks. What's most exciting is Dido's progression as a writer and musician. She learned more about drums, guitar and even took classes to enhance her inherent skills.
"Safe Trip Home" sees Dido coming full circle. On the heartbreaking "Grafton Street", the albums grand opus and tribute to Dido's father, she plays the recorder, one of the first instruments she ever mastered. Dido wrote and recorded "Quiet Times" almost entirely on her own: The song includes her own drum and guitar playing. As always, Dido presents the most honest and real feelings through her songs, particularly on "It Comes and It Goes", a song in which she confesses there are moments of doubt in the midst of clarity. "Let's Do the Things We Normally Do" is a sneakily and ironically honest number in which Dido plays piano and asks to keep things simple and normal during the end of a relationship. The lead single "Don't Believe In Love" includes a groovy bassline and Dido's realization to let love in or let it die. She questions love again on "Never Want to Say It's Love", a laid back number with a moving chorus and Dido's pleasant hums scattered throughout. Speaking of hums, the track "Us 2 Little Gods" is full of them as the music lightly bounces along. "Look No Further" and "The Day Before the Day" are both sensitive and touching tracks without percussion, the former a softly inspirational tune and the latter a sad profession of loss. Citizen Cope contributed vocals and guitar on "Burnin Love": His rasp isn't an obvious compliment to Dido's pure voice, but it's surprisingly right. The closing "Northern Skies" shuffles along for nearly 9 minutes with a steady beat and memorable lyrics.
The album is quite a departure from Dido's previous work. But rest assured there are elements of familiarity. There are quite a few electronic blips and bleeps, and even some of the live brass and strings were programmed and altered to sound unique to the album. Though it's a softer album, "Safe Trip Home" has a quiet confidence and showcases a newfound maturity from Dido. Even the album cover, a photo of astronaut Bruce McCandless II performing the first untethered spacewalk over Earth, suggests Dido herself is reaching out and letting go of some things. It's as if she's settling down, coming back from a long journey through death and rebirth. Thankfully, even the painful songs are somehow inspiring.