Beware of the Dogs is the debut album by Australian Stella Donnelly. The album is deeply rooted in the jangle-pop tradition of her country. This is a decade-long tradition, but no one so far has really emerged as a potential heir of Grant McLennan, star of legendary Go-Betweens. We might be close, this time.
It’s enough to listen to the shambling, light groove of her first single, ‘Tricks’, or to the crystal-clear chords of ‘Old Man’, which might come out of ’16 Lovers Lane’, to get a few shivers of recognition. But enough with the comparisons, because Stella’s personality overflows from the record: she even sniffles in ‘Allergies’, she argues violently in ‘Season’s Greetings’, she laughs amiably in ‘Tricks’ – this all makes for more than normal experience of contact.
In general, there is an important “singer/songwriter” side to to the record, given Stella’s vocal talent and education (several almost a cappella tracks, ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ might even be a folk-soul radio hit), which differentiates this record from its reference scene.
In particular because there is a specific relationship between her strictly technical ability and her chameleonic songwriting, which adapts to Beach House-like songs (‘Bistro’), as well as to electro-pop in ‘Watching Telly’ and ‘Die’. In all of this, her melodic sensitivity shines, without bending to easy solutions (for instance, listen to the closing in ‘Mosquito’).
Very few artists can return such a precise image of themselves, through their art, and Stella Donnelly is definitely a new name to follow in the current year.
Words: Lorenzo Righetto