Stella Donnelly – Beware of the Dogs (3 stars)

Stella Donnelly – Beware of the Dogs

Australian songwriter's debut album is witty and unforgiving

Stella Donnelly's debut album kicks off with a track that epitomises what she does best. Born of the #MeToo movement, 'Old Man' is a portrait of a creep, painted by Donnelly as she watched men who had exploited their power for so long finally being held accountable for their actions. The lyrics are witty and completely unforgiving – 'your personality traits don't count if you put your dick in someone's face' – and their punch is enhanced by the juxtaposingly chill, jangly guitar and shaker that accompanies them.

Since her 2017 debut solo EP Thrush Metal, Donnelly has recruited a full band, and their warm sound continues on the next track 'Mosquito', with an added dream pop, Beach House-esque feel. It's easy to zone out and sink in to the music, only to be promptly prodded awake by more shit-stirring lyrical honesty – 'I used my vibrator / wishing it was you' – once again made all the more subversive by an incongruously sugary musical backdrop.

Other highlights include 'Season's Greetings' a sun-dappled, slacker-rock number about awkward family reunions and their inevitable problematic debates, and 'U Owe Me,' a stinging message to a gross ex-boss which Donnelly plays solo, showing off her trademark quivery vibrato and finger-picked Stratocaster sound. The album peaks with 'Boys Will Be Boys', a track that has been part of Donnelly's setlists for a while as a heart-rending account of victim-blaming – 'you invaded her magnificence / put your hand over her mouth.'

Yet, it has to be said that in between the aforementioned points of razor-edged outspokenness, the strength of Donnelly's voice somewhat fades. At 13 tracks, Beware of the Dogs has more than one forgettable moment, and could have benefitted from further trimming down to lose the hanger-on tracks that somewhat dilute an otherwise compelling and important album.

Out Fri 8 Mar on Secretly Canadian.

Stella Donnelly

Australian-Welsh rock singer-songwriter, full of feminist defiance.