Australian singer-songwriter Stella Donnelly made waves back in 2017 when she released her single “Boys Will Be Boys.” The clean, finger-picked guitar layered with a simple, sweet vocal melody provided a gorgeous backdrop to a brutally somber anecdote about a close friend’s sexual assault, resulting in an emotionally-devastating masterpiece of a song. A single of that magnitude sets high expectations for of an artist’s debut album, and on Beware of the Dogs Donnelly delivers on her promise as an unbelievable songwriter and storyteller.
Thematically, the album is very much on point with “Boys Will Be Boys,” with most of the songs highlighting ugly truths of misogyny and rape culture in today’s society through the use of personal stories rather than broad statements and observations. What’s most impressive about Beware of the Dogs, however, is how concretely Donnelly maintains this theme, even as the tone and jangly aesthetic of her music shifts so radically from one song to the next.
While there are plenty of sad, stripped-down indie songs to be enjoyed on the record, tracks such as “Tricks” and “Season’s Greetings” are snarky and hilarious pop anthems that shine a spotlight on Donnelly’s witty sense of humor. Meanwhile, “Old Man” and the title track are more aggressive and punk-esque in their delivery. Yet no matter the style of the track, Donnelly’s emotive vocal presence and matter-of-fact words allow her to easily pull the listener’s heartstrings in every direction.
With Beware of the Dogs, Donnelly is able to display her incredible range as a songwriter without falling into the pitfalls of inconsistency that many debut albums face. With such a steadfast artistic goal in full display, and an uncanny ability for evoking deep empathy through her honest lyrics, Stella Donnelly is a force not to be fucked with in the world of indie rock and beyond.
When Tyler isn’t busy nerding out about new music, video games, beer or some random new coding project he picked up, he can be found writing for, performing with or shamelessly plugging his mathy indie rock band, Becoming A Ghost.