Sometime in my spring semester freshman year, I started getting really into music. Prior to this I listened to and very much enjoyed music, obviously, but it was around this time my friends and I created a spreadsheet where we would all review and discuss albums that were releasing that year.
The first album I reviewed for this spreadsheet was, funnily enough, technically not even an album. It was an EP by an indie darling from Australia named Stella Donnelly called “Thrush Metal”. The review was equivalent to an empty f*#&ing water bottle, containing the phrase “I love this” on four separate occasions and me messing up the titles of the tracks throughout the review.
However, despite the review being an abomination, one thing was obvious. I loved the EP. The way Donnelly’s soft voice and rhythmic strumming combined with her poignant lyrics turned what I expected to be a prototypical “sad girl strums a guitar” effort into one of my favorite musical moments of that year. Since that EP I’ve eagerly been awaiting her debut album, all the while simultaneously improving my reviewing skills. .
Finally, this past Friday Stella Donnelly released her album “Beware of the Dogs” and it is everything I could have hoped for. Donnelly takes the themes of her original EP and expands them in every possible way, similar to the leaps that are made between a rough draft and the final submission of a term paper. Her vocals are as beautiful as ever, her work as a guitarist has improved a tad over the interval between projects, and her witty, powerful lyrics are still present, showing she hasn’t let up as a songwriter either.
Releasing on International Women’s Day seems to be no accident, as the main theme tackled on this record her experience as a woman in today’s society. As a male who identifies as a male, I obviously cannot have any idea of what this is like, however, if tracks like “Tricks” and “Boys will be Boys” are to be any indication, it sounds intimidating to say the least. “Boys will be Boys”, a track originating from her aforementioned EP, deals with the aftermath of a rape, victim blaming, and the living trauma the victim endures everyday in an extremely moving way, while “Tricks” deals with what it feels like to be treated like less of a person and more of a trophy by someone you love.
While songs like these are amazing and extremely important, what I loved most about this album was the parallels she added through tracks like “Old Man” and “U Owe Me”. In these songs she explores how an empowered woman can do anything from presenting and subsequently attacking social issues when she is given a voice, to something as simple as standing up to her d!#k of a boss.
Throughout the album, her vocals are a treat to listen to; as is her work with her guitar. What makes her songs special are her lyrics, as lines like “Cause you’re a pretty light and I’m so attracted to ya/A malaria mosquito buzzing in the shadow” add just the right amount of personality to the album to set it and her apart from contemporaries, while lines like “Why was she all alone/Wearing her shirt that low?/They said, “Boys will be boys”/Deaf to the word no” drive a message home in a much needed way.
Header photo courtesy of Stella Donelly’s Facebook.