Published Mar 05, 2019"It's never too late to be on time."
If there's one message to take away from Beware of the Dogs, it's this, because when Stella Donnelly calls you out — and she is calling most of you out — it's not so much finger-pointing as it is a wake-up call. Her debut is a striking proclamation that holds the powers that be accountable for misbehaviours on all fronts.
Unlike last year's Thrush Metal, the Perth artist has expanded her arsenal and now stands at the helm of a full band. The simple addition of synths, cello, bass, piano and (most notably) percussion, has elevated her music to a place most of us were hoping she would — one that's sonically diverse and a little more multidimensional.
Instrumentally, there's a flare and excitement that was lacking on previous work. Each song is unique, rarely applying the same formula twice. Fortunately, she's ensured every musical choice, structural or instrumental, serves a purpose. When her message is best told intimately, she restricts everything else until it's needed. And despite the emotional weight a lot of these songs carry, most are quite upbeat — even fun.
Her vocals are also more daring on this record. Breeze-like melodies cruise through multiple octaves with ease, fluttering with vibrato at the tail end of her notes. Sometimes she'll even drop them off early, pairing the attitude in her words with impatience in her tone.
Stella never beats around the bush, and because of that, there is a magnetism to this album. If she wants you to "fuck off and die," for example, that's exactly how she'll say it. Ironically, that exact charisma tends to overshadow any risk of offending listeners.
For example, she's blunt when saying "your personality traits don't count if you put your dick in someone's face," on "Old Man." On "Mosquito," she's explicit, telling a partner she "used her vibrator," wishing it were them. And lines like "I get homesick before I go away" are as personal as they are relatable. For Donnelly, vulnerability is nothing to be ashamed of as honesty is the foundation for her storytelling.
Sometimes though, honesty is a little harder to swallow. "Boys Will Be Boys" is not just the strongest song on this album, but one of the most powerful songs I've heard in years. Her tale of rape apology and victim blaming is a punch to the gut. It's devastating, yet beautifully conveyed. If any piece of music has the ability to stop you in your tracks, shut you up, and force you to listen, this is it — and we need it now more than ever.
Albums like these are so important because these speak today's truth for tomorrows circumstances. They don't just point out the problems, they offer a solution. "It's never too late to be on time." (Secretly Canadian)