Wednesday, April 5, 2017

CD Odyssey Disc 990: Dido

Earlier this week my book got rejected by another publisher, so last night I spent a bunch of time figuring out who I’m going to pitch it to next. I’m still tired from the experience. Writing books is a lot more fun than trying to get them published.

In the absence of getting someone to buy 80,000 of my words, I’ll provide the next 900 or so free of charge. I hope you enjoy.

Disc 990 is…No Angel
Artist: Dido

Year of Release: 1999

What’s up with the Cover? This cover feels like it was designed in MS Publisher over two hours and three glasses of white wine. Next time just have someone take a picture of you drinking the wine.

How I Came To Know It: This album was huge when it came out (#1 in multiple countries although inexplicably only #4 in Canada). Although I liked what I heard, I never got around to buying it until. Then about a year ago I saw it in a clearance bin for $1.99, at which point I figured it was worth a shot.

How It Stacks Up:  This is the only Dido album I have, so it can’t stack up.

Ratings: 2 stars

Ah Dido Florian Cloud de Bounevialle O'Malley Armstrong, I feel we are star-crossed. If we had gotten to know each other back in 1999, things could have been different between us. “No Angel” isn’t a bad album; it just came to me a little late.

Back in 1999 I really dug Dido’s sound but for whatever reason I didn’t buy the record at the time. Instead, whenever Eminem’s “Stan” came on Much Music I would idly complain I preferred hearing the full version of Dido’s “Thank You” to a sample. I’ve since come around to a full and proper appreciation of both “Stan” and Eminem more generally and regret the casual judgments of my youth.

“No Angel” is very much of its time, with lush production that fills the room with a lot of ambient sound, deep drum sounds and a general feeling that you’re hearing the songs at night under deep water. “My Lover’s Gone” even samples seabirds in case the experience wasn’t obvious enough.

However, Dido does a good job of maximizing that sound and while it sounds dated in places, it also sounds good. Yes there is lots of atmospheric thumping and whumping, but it lays a nice background groove to the emotional power of Dido’s voice; low and sweet with a hint of ether around the edges that is just the right amount of dreamy.

The songs all have a smoky lounge quality to them, as if they were being played in one of those lounges that converts to a nightclub at 10 p.m. on the weekends. Dido is the last thing those places play before the switch, no doubt giving the old booze donkeys a jolt, and making the early arriving clubbers unsure if they are in the right place.

The album had two top ten hits, “Here With Me” and the aforementioned “Thank You”. Both are solid pop songs with a majestic energy that lands them comfortably midway between a ballad and a dance song. These are songs for swaying back and forth on a dance floor, hands on your partner’s hips or around their waist, depending on how well the evening seems to be going. Lyrically they are nothing to write home about, but combined with that blanket-of-sound production, some gently flowing melodies and Dido’s soulful delivery, they just feel right.

When I bought this album in the bargain bin, it was these two songs that I was thinking about, with the hopes that the album would have a few deep cuts that would pleasantly surprise me. Unfortunately, while the album is OK I didn’t have one of those “wow” moments during Side Two that makes me fall in love with an album. I’m not a “buy it just for the hits” kind of guy. I need a deeper commitment.

As deep cuts go “I’m No Angel” is pretty solid, despite some goofy drum machine action. It has a catchy Latin dance beat and Dido’s voice climbs up high in the register and shows off some casual power (I like that Dido sings beautifully while never feeling the need to show off with a bunch of vocal acrobatics).

My Lover’s Gone” is confessional and somber and reminded me a lot of Sarah McLachlan. Despite the aforementioned bird noises it is one of the stronger songs on the record, and feels as real as a thing can feel while making me think “this must be how elven music would sound!”

But the truth is the hits have been seriously overplayed over the years (note: not Dido’s fault) and the rest of the record comes to me at a time when I’m looking for something different. I was starting to get into the groove, but when I got home and was only halfway through the second listen I didn’t feel any particular need to keep going.

I just wasn’t feeling it but it isn’t you, Dido, it’s me. It’s just bad timing. I’m just not that into this album, and it’s time I send this CD along to someone who is.

Best tracks: Here With Me, Thank You, I’m No Angel 

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