Stella Donnelly: Beware of the Dogs (Secretly Canadian) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, November 16th, 2019  

Stella Donnelly

Beware of the Dogs

Secretly Canadian

Mar 08, 2019 Issue #65 - Mitski and boygenius Bookmark and Share


After causing a stir with her debut EP, the magnificently titled Thrush Metal, the much-lauded Australian singer/songwriter rocks up with her debut full-length, with only one song (more on that later) making the transition from said EP to debut proper.

Structured almost as a series of missives, Donnelly's writing tends to focus on the external-often these songs tend to be built on salient observations about various obnoxious men she encounters-yet she always brings it back to the personal, deftly knotting herself and the listener into the narrative with a smooth shift of perspective.

Donnelly's lyrics are amusing-"I'd like to bring you cake back home from work but you're allergic" she notes on the sparse, delightful "Mosquito"-but they often serve as a sugar-pill to more easily swallow the acerbic, yet sometimes equally hilarious lines found elsewhere. "My mum's still a punk/And you're still shit," she observes on the charming "Seasons Greetings" which closes with a glorious whisper of "Fuck off then/Fuck off."

There's real sadness here too, as on solo ballad "Allergies," in which "The characters we used to play are walking off the stage," and we actually hear Donnelly sniff back tears (or a bad cold). That's extended to "Boys Will Be Boys," a heartbreaking but ultimately empowered rage against injustice dealing with rape and male complicity, ultimately demanding, "Time to pay the fucking rent" in one of the most powerful kiss-offs in recent memory. That she carries this over from the earlier EP is a good move-more people need to hear it.

Musically, "Bistro" has a lo-fi, dream-like swirl to it, while "Watching Telly" ("He liked Ernest Hemingway/I liked watching telly") is propped up by basement electronica but for the most part we're here to hear Donnelly, her voice, and a scratchy, tenderly played guitar.

On the summery strum of "Tricks" Donnelly notes of a drunk "friend": "You say that you're going to quit but we know that you won't" then "You wear me out like you wear that Southern Cross tattoo"—a perfect example of her narrative skill and melodic gift.

Beware of the Dogs is a melodic, memorable package overflowing with promise. (www.stelladonnelly.com)

Author rating: 8.5/10

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Average reader rating: 5/10



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