Stella Donnelly’s ‘Beware of the Dogs’: a review

Taking a stand, Stella Donnelly’s ‘Beware of the Dogs’ is unafraid to confront head-on the more chilling side of Australian story.

Don’t be fooled by the sweet rolling melodies of Donnelly’s voice, this record tackles much heavier issues tainted in Australian society such as, toxic masculinity, abuse, white Australia and broken relationships.

It’s the rather harsh reality penned against the more softer melodies of Donnelly’s songs that keeps you hooked right to the end.

But don’t expect the album to be filled with overly optimistic tunes.

For Donnelly, writing happy songs isn’t necessarily her cup of tea, as she told Apple Music, “I struggle to write about the flowers and the birds and the bees and the blue skies”.

“There’s gotta’ be a bit of grit in there somewhere.”

Want to know what tracks to add to your playlist, well is a just a selection of our personal favourites.

Stemming from the quite contentious single ‘Boys Will Be Boys’, ‘Old Man’ starts the album strongly as Donnelly refuses to hide away from the critics, rather returning with all guns blazing. The easygoing tempo of the acoustics at the start, instantly radiates a this ‘summer love’ type vibe but the track is far more than that. Donnelly prefers to break the innocence, as her lyrics paint a bold picture of toxic masculinity often disguised in the corners of society. As the ‘happy-go-lucky’ tune fades, one particular lyric resonates, “Oh are you scared of me, or are you scared of what I’ll do. You grabbed me with an open hand, the world is grabbing back at you.”

‘Mosquito’ is the described as being the only love song Donnelly will write. The lulled downtempo acoustics instantly injects some a classic lo-fi sentiment. Keeping it simple, the glowing sound swirls around Donnelly’s sweet voice, as she sings “I got sick of waiting”, as she continues to daydream for a special someone.

A tear-jerker, ‘Allergies’ is a break-up track. Something about the resonating echo of the lo-fi electric guitar melody creates an air of loneliness with a breath of hope. Donnelly openly and rather emotionally shares the highs and lows of a relationship, “I did my best to love you.” However, like any broken heart, the ending is incomplete, ending on a dissatisfied tone.

‘Tricks’ is another zoom-in of the hidden darker side of Australian identity, as Donnelly playfully reflects on the morons that used to “yell s*** at me when I played cover gigs on Sunday afternoons.”

Already a familiar tune, but many won’t know that the track ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ actually made the album at the last minute. Despite the song’s presence on the ‘Thrush Metal’ 2017 EP, Donnelly believes more people need to hear it. Still just as hard-hitting and powerful since its first release, the track has a melody much like a lullaby but really is quite far from being sweet and innocent.

Donnelly peels back the layers of Australian culture in ‘Beware of the Dogs’, more specifically the unfair nature of privilege. Not afraid to speak her mind, Donnelly opens singing “this street is haunted like a beast.” A screeching gate opens, luring us to the disturbing truths of Australian culture, as Donnelly sings about the selfishness of the bureaucracy of Australian politics, “they built it inside out”.

Retreating to a more tranquil sound, ‘U Owe Me’ is something you would listen to while sitting in the back of your car watching the sunset over the ocean as the waves crash. The song winds down with Donnelly’s soothing hums and final words, “I don’t think I’ll ever be coming back.”

A more experimental sound, ‘Watching Telly’ with its low buzzing synth injects some more fervent 80s electro vibes, imitating a static TV. The melody reminds you of a merry-go-round spinning round and round. But it wouldn’t be a ‘Stella Donnelly song’ without a clear message for her audience. Here, Donnelly delves into the impractical female representation on TV, “they tape dollar signs to our bodies and tell us not to show our skin, if it’s good enough for the boys, then its good enough for us.”

Go listen to the full album or even better get yourself a copy of ‘Beware of the Dogs’ right here.


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