For as long as many of us can remember, artists have placed hidden messages in their music. When you read interviews with them and they state what a certain song is about or isn’t about, you’re typically shocked and that vehicle has been the standard throughout the music industry. However, every once and again an artist comes around and they don’t mince words or sugarcoat what they’re saying. Right now in music, that artist is Stella Donnelly. On her new full length Beware of the Dogs, Donnelly very bluntly says exactly what she wants and it not only works, it’s refreshing to hear.
To be fair, not every song on this album is about empowerment, though the lyrics are open and honest. When Donnelly wants to call out a creep and show that times have changed, she does so like on opener “Old Man.” When she wants to call out someone for playing games, she does just that on “Tricks,” and when she wants to talk about rape and how men are treated versus how females are treated, she does so with “Boys Will Be Boys.” Even speaking of global wealth gap isn’t hidden on “Beware of the Dogs.” Lyrically, the album is forward thinking and honest. Donnelly doesn’t care what the norm was, she just seems to know what she wants to say-something she does with ease and without apology-not that she should have to apologize for anything.
Musically the album has a steady mixture of indie rock, tender folk and at times slacker pop. When she wants to get intense, her voice doesn’t hide it. When she wants to swoon, her voice sounds like a bird singing in the rain. But there’s nothing dainty with these songs. The bulk of the album is rife with tracks that flow with multiple instrumentation and lush arrangements. The guitar that opens “Lunch” is actually an acoustic and an electric, blending to create a weight that falls heavier than can be described. This gets met with strings and a piano where Donnelly’s vocals are the hook, lifting high and sounding deep and with ease. The way the drums come in have their own structuring before backing vocals make their way in and you realize that Donnelly is just as strong at arrangements as she is at stark or cheeky lyricism.
This occurs again and again on the album, where the music has more moving parts than you may be used to hearing. The electro-pop touches on “Bistro” have plenty of snap while the noodling and backing vocals of “U Owe Me” create an almost mysterious tone that play perfectly underneath Donnelly’s voice. The album’s closer “Face It” has the most tender sounds of the record, though it still hits with the weight of the album’s subject matter. Stella Donnelly has delivered a release that grabs your attention with its honesty and holds on to it with its hook filled songwriting.
You can stream Beware of the Dogs on all streaming sites, you can purchase it in all online retailers including Bandcamp, or you can buy it on physical formats directly from Secretly Canadian. Stella Donnelly is on tour starting March 09 at Estonian House in Brunswick West, Australia until August 29 at End of the Road Festival in Salisbury, U.K. A complete listing of her tour can be accessed here.
Image Credits: Photo by Pooneh Ghana.