In 2017 Stella Donnelly released the explosive ‘Boys Will Be Boys’, a powerful attack on victim blaming. Over trilling, stripped-back acoustics, Donnelly’s outstanding lyrics pointedly take down rape apology: “They said, ‘Boys will be boys’ / Deaf to the word, ‘No’.”
The rest of the Australian singer-songwriter’s debut EP ‘Thrush Metal’ followed suit: gleaming indie-pop songs that boast immensely vital lyrics that float over delicate, dancing guitar lines (all recorded on “a crappy $100 guitar”, she’s said). Her first full-length album, ‘Beware of the Dogs, is a natural evolution of this sound.
This time around, though her acoustic guitar is complemented by kinetic electric riffs and pulsing drums. On ‘Mosquito’, Donnelly’s voice is backed by gorgeous harmonies and ethereal, trickling synth lines; ‘Season’s Greetings’ is a bright, full band tune stuffed with intricate details and fizzing hooks.
But as with anything Donnelly puts out, the true brilliance is in her poignant lyrics. The album’s opener, the razor-sharp ‘Old Man’, sees Donnelly takedown the patriarchy over an indie-folk riff: “Oh, are you scared of me, old man?/Or are you scared of what I’ll do?” The dreamy instrumentals only serves to magnify her searing lyrics, such as the utterly excellent line: “Your personality traits don’t count if you put your dick / In someone’s face”. Even when she’s discussing the most difficult subject matter, Donnelly does it with good humour and an element of cheekiness.
Her sardonic wit continues throughout the rest of the album. On ‘Season’s Greetings’ Donnelly tells an irritating family member to “fuck off” after they ruined a Christmas meal, whilst on ‘Mosquito’ she boldly sings: “I used my vibrator wishing it was you”. It’s brazen, and mischievous, and hugely refreshing.
Throughout the record, she bravely calls out incredibly important issues such as toxic masculinity and rape culture, but her music never loses its playfulness. This is an enthralling and deeply relevant debut.