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Music reviews: Dido sticks to a rigid formula while Foals peak

Serenity: Dido does neutral, Dido does not do inelegant on her new album

THE BIG RELEASE

Dido — Still On My Mind

BMG ★★★✩✩

FOR readers who’ve lamented the lack of Dido coverage in the five years since Dido last released an album, please enjoy this pick of little-known Didofacts:

■ Dido came into being, Pygmalion-fashion, when a magic elixir was accidentally spilled upon a photo spread in Red magazine.

■ Dido’s pH value is seven, exactly.

■ Dido dreams only in pastels.

■ Dido is available without prescription as a mild analgesic from pharmacies.

Do not, for all this, underestimate Dido or mistake Dido’s blankness for weakness. As Eminem demonstrated long ago, there is no musical form Dido cannot Didofy. If Dido chose to make an album of death metal, or trap, or polka, it would come out clear, even and as relaxing as a spa break. Dido’s rejection of perceptible variation in the volume or tone of Dido’s voice is Dido’s calling card, Dido’s USP — Dido’s art.

In the event, Dido has chosen to make a coffee-table electronica album from 1996, a natural fit for both Dido and Dido’s brother and collaborator, Rollo from Faithless. It has come out pleasant and tasteful, as everything Dido does. Dido does neutral; Dido does not do inelegant. Dido manages, for example, to make Hell After This, a faintly Latin celebration of casual afternoon hotel sex, feel like a solo candlelit soak in the bathtub. Dido also produces a refined piece of early 1990s electro soul, Take You Home, that would not be shamed in the company of Electribe 101.

One should not dislike Dido. One cannot dislike Dido. Now there is more Dido and all is serene.

The verdict

All is serene and pleasantly formulaic on Dido’s latest dose of tasteful coffee-table electronica. DAVID BENNUN

Foals — Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost: Part 1

Warner Bros ★★★★★

Blooming: Foals approach their peak

ANY musically bold indie band who hail from Oxford — as four-piece Foals do — will inevitably draw comparisons with Radiohead. And while the two bands share little in common stylistically, it’s hard not to think of Foals’ fifth album as the spiritual heir to Radiohead’s OK Computer.

Whereas OK Computer focused on rampant consumerism and millennium angst, Foals’ new work sees the group trying to make sense of a world that increasingly makes little sense at all. Climate change, the loss of privacy, the mental health epidemic — all are modern neuroses explored via the means of singer Yannis Philippakis’s abstract but heartfelt utterances.

The singer’s riddles sit atop spacious riff-heavy rock. White Onions is a muscular if jittery treat, as is haunting single Exits. And yet the record refuses to let the darkness they document consume it in full. Sunday, for instance, is ferociously euphoric.

The record might end with a languid piece entitled I’m Done With The World (& It’s Done With Me) but Foals’ new album sounds like a band approaching their peak, not laying down defeated. JAMES McMAHON

Amanda Palmer — There Will Be No Intermission

8ft Records ★★★✩✩

By the sword: Amanda Palmer

TO MANY, Amanda Palmer, the singer-songwriter, musician, TED talker and author of a New York Times bestselling self-help book is an oversharing egotist who’s shamelessly exploited her own community. To plenty of others, she’s a visionary artist whose unflinching honesty speaks to her warrior-queen power.

That group presumably includes those who’ve crowdfunded her third solo album. The title is a warning — it’s 20 tracks long and her truth tap gushes for 78 minutes in personal tales of motherhood, death in its many guises (including abortion), internet hatred and the struggle involved in being… well, her.

It’s a difficult listen but not because of its subject matter. It’s because the music and lyrics veer between chewy, awkwardly melodramatic and bracingly naive. The strongest songs here are The Ride, which despite using a fairground ride as a clichéd metaphor for life is genuinely plaintive; Look Mummy, No Hands, with its Weimar-cabaret wistfulness; and Judy Blume, a dark piano ballad about growing up.

It’s a brave record, maybe, but not a very likeable one. Palmer, you imagine, could hardly care less about that. SHARON O’CONNELL