On Beware of the Dogs, Stella Donnelly’s steady voice belies a piercing debut. Her opening single, “Old Man,” is an unflinching and confident introduction to the rest of the album: “You grabbed me with an open hand/The world is grabbing back at you,” she repeats in the refrain, each time joined by another layer of vocals. It is a memorable prelude, a striking crescendo, a refusal to be silenced.
Donnelly also knows when to bring us in close, going back to the intimate sound of her 2017 release Thrush Metal. A standout single from her debut EP, “Boys Will Be Boys,” also features the title track that soars over sparse acoustic guitar. She fiercely recounts the words of countless victim-blamers, past and present, with equal parts of scorn and sorrow. Donnelly’s understated delivery of her artful songwriting makes it all the more impactful (and sometimes painful), and she lingers on the lines that hit the hardest. “I needed someone, they told me I’m wrong,” she draws almost incredulously on “Watching Telly,” a statement on bodily autonomy and objectification.
When not stripped down to the sounds of Donnelly’s earlier music, tracks are accompanied by warmly produced instrumentals. The mix of synths in the background of “Die” provides a forward momentum that works well with the repeated lyrics, and the verses of “Tricks” are punctuated by punchy guitar lines.
The songs on Beware of the Dogs are often introspective and personal snapshots, but they carry weight as reflections on the darkest and often most pervasive parts of society. Donnelly’s message on patriarchal power and violence cuts to the heart of the matter with her sharp critique—and in the same breath, wastes no time in lifting us up.
Donnelly will be going on a world tour starting this upcoming week. Check below for tour dates near you:
Min is currently writing, learning, and staying hopeful in the Bay Area. She loves playing music, listening to music, and everything in between.