There’s a very good reason why Dido’s third album—and first studio effort in five years—sounds so cinematic: noted movie-score composer/Fiona Apple collaborator Jon Brion. As Safe Trip Home’s co-producer, Brion sprinkles in the same type of lively orchestral melancholy he brought to soundtracks like Punch-Drunk Love and Magnolia. These dramatic strings and quiet horns suit Dido’s intimate songwriting quite well, especially on the Broadway-esque “Let’s Do the Things We Normally Do” and “Look No Further,” a lovely tune about true love which resembles one a Disney heroine might sing.
Home’s electronic-tinged forays—no doubt facilitated by the album’s other co-producer, Dido’s brother/Faithless co-founder Rollo Armstrong—sound just as conspiratorial and warm. Fluttering acoustic guitars and thrumming heartbeat rhythms give songs like “Don’t Believe in Love” and “Northern Skies” a vaguely neo-soul flavor. For all of the sleek textures and inviting emotional interludes, though, Home’s songs are often repetitive and bland, like wallpaper for a very special episode of Grey’s Anatomy.
More songs like the Brian Eno collaboration “Grafton Street,” a tune highlighted by plush layers of keyboards, flute and strings that resembles Depeche Mode’s later-period micro-techno, would have given the disc more character. Still, as an album to throw on late at night for background, Home can’t be beat.