Dido, "Safe Trip Home"

Dido counts herself lucky. She has two homes: one in Los Angeles and one in London. And by "homes," she doesn't necessarily mean houses -- she means places where she feels comfortable and creative. "London is still home -- but I feel real love for Los Angeles," she says. "It's a city built on people having an imagination."

Sitting at the dining room table at a house in L.A.'s Laurel Canyon, Dido says that in the five years since her last album, "Life for Rent," she spent time reconnecting with family and friends-and gaining confidence to explore new kinds of music.

That search, with the assistance of producers Jon Brion and Dido's brother, Rollo Armstrong, led to "Safe Trip Home," due this week from RCA. While the songwriting is classic Dido, with haunting, personal lyrics about life's bittersweet turns, the musical accompaniments are unusual, featuring everything from Swiss hand bells to strings and woodwinds.

"She's made the best record she's made of her career so far, and I think she's totally grown as a musician, as a songwriter and as a performer," Sony BMG U.K. chairman Ged Doherty says. Dido's sound has evolved on lengthy, reverb-laden tracks like "Northern Skies" and "Let's Do the Things We Normally Do," which show a Brian Eno influence. But it won't come across as jarring to a massive fan base that snapped up 4.2 million U.S. copies of 1999's "No Angel" and 2.1 million of 2003's "Life for Rent," according to Nielsen SoundScan.


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