Music Reviews
Beware the Dogs

Stella Donnelly Beware the Dogs

(Secretly Canadian) Rating - 8/10

If you've debated that indie rock has finally met its demise, then look no further than to Australia. From the country's countless rising performers, Stella Donnelly may be one of the fiercest and most audacious. The Perth singer-songwriter dismisses the male-dominated rock pantheon as a fad, targeting at the ones who defend its misogynist traditions. Considering the post-Harvey Weinstein #MeToo movement, many have triedand sometimes failedto use art as a vessel to raise these concerns without sounding trite or too moralizing. Consider this her defense towards both others and herself.

Right from the outset, she opens Beware the Dogs with a callous disregard of the suited white man on Old Man. "White man, white teeth in a suit, he's got that style," she sarcastically changes her vocal infection to punctuate how "impressed" she feels over a jangly, warped melody. Donnelly is not one to mince wordson the elegant waltz of Mechanical Bull, she addresses the toxic mentality of sexual assault deniers with chilling sincerity. Other times, she makes her point across with some welcome frivolity, like on Watching Telly, where she can't fathom why women don't have the right to choose what to do with their bodies.

All of these stories wouldn't sound as pointed if it weren't for Donnelly's frisky, charismatic delivery. Her honeyed sing-speaka direct descent of The Cardigans' Nina Perssonoften changes from sarcastic to denunciatory with unselfconscious ease. And so do the songs themselvesthe bored afternoon that turns into a self-love fantasy on Mosquito; the awkward gathering between relatives on Season's Greetings, the hatred she acquired from providing her services as a bartender U Owe Me; the remembrances of a now-defunct relationship Allergies. She uses peculiar chord changes, most in acoustic form, all of which ascend and descend with cheerful, tuneful eclecticism.

What makes Beware the Dogs such a fun and engaging listen is how Donnelly expresses her opinions with such imperfect candor. There's not a second where you doubt that she's not amusing herself, relishing the creative side in her intimate space with her tongue firmly in cheek. Yes, there is a heavy component behind her blunt, outspoken demeanor. But there's also a lot of joy to be had in Donnelly's lyrical twists, as her words constantly amuse and surprises with thoughtful wit. And though she nudges you with her ideas, most of Beware the Dogs is just as unspecified—if you think the title applies to you, well, that's on you.