Written by Luke Hall
Beware of the Dogs - and Beware of my Favourite Album of the Year.
Stella Donnelly's incredible ability to combine thoughtful and challenging themes with catchy lyrics is on full display in her debut full-length album.
This is optimised in the opening track 'Old Man', which showcases her capacity for mixing relatable storytelling with the very direct, shit-stirring, "stick-it-to-the-man" attitude that so often drives home a potent message. She is straight to the point when delving into deep societal issues such as rape, violence against women, inequality and toxic patriarchy, calling out "pious fucks" ('Beware of the Dogs') and exclaiming that "God loves men, Jesus Christ" ('Watching Telly').
The record is punctuated with moments of colloquial genius, exemplified classically in 'Tricks' which references "Kyle and Jackie-O" and a dig at Southern Cross tattoos, while 'U Owe Me' perfectly paints a picture in describing "pouring plastic pints of flat VB". Colourful wording is paired with perfectly timed back-phrasing and over-emphasis of terms, particularly when breaking the rhyming flow of a verse in what is very much a Stella Donnelly speciality (for example, the sharp conclusion of a verse with the song title in 'Lunch', and swapping out the expected "fuck" for "laid" in 'Tricks').
The album is centred around the sombre and intentionally provocative 'Boys Will Be Boys', taking aim at the deeply embedded societal attitude of excusing males in cases of sexual assault of women. Through vivid and raw narrative verses, Donnelly tells of a melancholy female character who has her "magnificence invaded" and who "blames herself", contrasted against examples of typical harmful rhetoric that arises in response to these tragedies, such as referring to people asking why she was "wearing her shirt so low" and those who believe that "women rape themselves". She concludes the track with a promise to "never let [the perpetrator] rest", imploring that it is "time to pay the fucking rent" of the bonds that have been broken for this victimised character.
Some experimental electronic-pop (see 'Die' in particular) accompanies acoustic ballads in an album where complete honesty and total vulnerability is presented throughout. Issues are brought to the listener directly from the heart, outlining Stella's desire to stick up for herself, her friends, and what she believes is right.
Charming and quirky as it may be, Beware of the Dogs is a powerful piece of contemporary art that demands - and deserves - your attention.