The Big Issue : Edition 582
MUSIC 38 THEBIGISSUE.ORG.AU 8–21 MAR 2019 Stella Donnelly is a self-confessed shit-stirrer, but the term doesn’t even come close to describing the fearless, multifaceted Perth singer-songwriter behind Beware of the Dogs. Donnelly’s Thrush Metal EP (2017) showcased this accomplished solo artist, and for her 13-track debut album she invited musicians into the studio to supply extra flourishes, while carefully maintaining intimacy. The subject matter remains intensely personal — Donnelly admitting it’s “like a sad diary” — but the concerns go wider. Having some fun, Donnelly wishes her vibrator were her crush (‘Mosquito’), and channels Lily Allen’s sass (‘Season’s Greetings’, ‘Die’). Her pure, angelic vocals could lull your babies to sleep, Donnelly’s lyrics subliminally educating while they dream: “Cause it’s our words that’ll keep our daughters safe.” Dim the lights, grab a bottle of wine, light some candles, sit in your favourite chair and give Beware of the Dogs the undivided attention it deser ves. Here hope lies. BRYGET CHRISFIELD BEWARE OF THE DOGS STELLA DONNELLY Huntly have been on the electronica scene for a while now, and have finally dropped their debut album Low Grade Buzz. Basted in polished, abstract production, it is at times akin to international heavy-hitters Frank Ocean and FKA Twigs (or HABITS or The Harpoons, closer to home). ‘Reckoning’ is playful dance-pop with subdued vocal gymnastics on the hook, one of the many showcases of singer Elspeth Scrine’s delicately incisive delivery. Lines meditated on through repetition are effective on ‘Wiggle’, though less so on the two-part ‘Dusk’. The album’s more direct pop arrangements are solid, with more daring experiments producing higher highs with ricochet rhythms. The closing title track is stripped bare, compounding overarching themes and emotions in an affecting, purposefully malfunctioning serenade. Achieving a greater humanity with non- human effects isn’t a new trick by any means, but as Low Grade Buzz shows, it can still be effective. LACHLAN KANONIUK LOW GRADE BUZZ HUNTLY THE #METOO MOVEMENT is here to stay. In fact, far from fading out into the maelstrom of Twitter, as so many predicted early on, it is still building momentum. As more and more stories of abuse are unearthed, women around the world watch on, empowered and ready to share theirs. It comes as no surprise that so many of the high-profile cases to emerge over the past 12 months have sprung from the music industry, a world where the balance of power has always been skewed, incontestably, towards men. Not only are women underrepresented in the music business, they are also underrepresented as entertainers. And, as these stories continue to be told, a fuller picture of just why the scales tilt this way has begun to emerge. Most recently, The New York Times ran an exposé on Ryan Adams in which a number of women — both high-profile (including his former wife Mandy Moore and singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers) and unknown – accuse Adams of emotional abuse and coercion. As Pitchfork recently responded: “It’s a tale that has been told a thousand times before.” For most women working in music, the news doesn’t come as a surprise. What is a surprise is that now we can talk about it — and be believed. For every New York Times exposé there are thousands more untold stories. This past month, I’ve sat with friends and colleagues listening to theirs. And it’s starting to feel like the foundations are truly beginning to crumble. SARAH SMITH > Music Editor Nobody else in Australian music sounds quite like Fair Maiden. The Adelaide quartet combine the eerie purity of medieval folk music with the reverbed twang of early rock and doo-wop. Where 2014’s self-titled debut provided an atmospheric sketch of that unlikely fusion, Oleander follows through with an expanded line-up and fleshed- out execution. The heart of the band is still very much Ellen Carey, who sings in a feathery deadpan about murder, torture and other woeful trials. Even on the perky lead single ‘Coal’, she sneaks in such barbed undercurrents as “You only won the battle ’cause you cheated at the fight.” ‘Madness’ and ‘Fire and Blood’ double-down on fairytale foreboding to blackly comic effect, while ‘Melting’ could be the most harrowing dirge of them all. But there’s no better introduction to Fair Maiden than ‘By Your Side’, an 88-second choral piece that promises romantic devotion despite the unavoidable toll of mortality. DOUG WALLEN OLEANDER FAIR MAIDEN CD DOWNLOAD VINYL PHOEBE BRIDGERS, BURNING BRIGHT.