A debut album of strident, striking potency, Beware of the Dogs sees Stella Donnelly firmly at the helm, with her characteristic, captivating charm. Following on from her breakthrough solo EP Thrush Metal, the sound here carries itself with a greater assurance, reflecting the time Donnelly took during the album’s creation to “take stock” of everything after relentless touring and rapidly-spreading acclaim off the back of the EP. For this record, the Fremantle-based musician enlisted a bunch of her friends to complete the band, this core familiarity imbuing the album with a tangible dynamism and the fuller sound complementing Donnelly’s compositions perfectly.
Lyrically, Beware of the Dogs bears Donnelly’s particular, wry demeanour as she astutely balances sharp wit alongside stark vulnerability, purveyed via her soaring vocals. On ‘Boys Will Be Boys’, a track that also featured on her previous EP, Donnelly poignantly addresses – with a gut-wrenching rawness – the culture of victim-blaming sexual assault survivors. While opening track and lead single, ‘Old Man’, sees Donnelly confront the track’s creeping namesake with compelling defiance.
Throughout the record, Donnelly’s vocal dexterity is sublime as she offers chirruping vibrato on ‘Lunch’, the piercing high-notes of ‘Watching Telly’, or dulcet crooning on ‘Mosquito’ – all delivered with her distinctive sprightly tone, accompanied by glistening guitar refrains and velvety melodies. And it is this way in which she simultaneously presents visceral fragility, a sense of playfulness, and unflinching poise that makes Donnelly’s music so undeniable and enchanting.
Photo by Pooneh Ghana.
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