The new album from Stella Donnelly, Beware Of The Dogs, out on Friday via Secretly Canadian, is the sort of thing that (rightly) is going to get a lot of press attention. Stella writes sharp, observant tunes that are layered with an abundance of pop hooks, such that the smartest bits here go down as easily as sugar.
And while the lyrical concerns of "Boys Will Be Boys" and "Old Man" are deadly serious ones, the melodies are buoyant, and very nearly pretty. Donnelly's knack for this sort of thing rivals that of Aimee Mann, or even Elvis Costello, and her kind of rock intellect is one that understands how to make the biggest of points with an economy that's impressive. Elsewhere, the ebullient "Lunch", with its memorable "I get homesick before I go away" refrain, is cryptically concerned with leaving one continent to go to another. Hearing Stella's Australian accent at times might make an older indie fan think up faint comparisons to Frente!, but a more astute listener might think back even further, to gems like "Bye Bye Pride" and "To Reach Me" from fellow Aussies Forster and McLennan and crew. And if the down-tempo "Watching Telly" made me think of stuff from that second album from Kenickie, I think long-time readers of this site would know exactly what I meant with that bit of praise. This is big Pop but it's also a contemplative and intellectual record.
To rave about Stella Donnelly's skill at writing a big pop tune is not to diminish her lyrical prowess. It is meant, rather, to say that she is as adept at crafting a winning melody as she is at writing a line that pierces the heart with its truthfulness. You will be humming along to virtually every number here on Beware Of The Dogs, but you'll also be considering the points raised in these songs, and I remain a big fan of artists who can do this sort of material with the kind of deftness displayed here.
Beware Of The Dogs is out on Friday via Secretly Canadian.
More details on Stella Donnelly via her official Facebook page.
[Photo: Poone Ghana]