Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Stella Donnelly

  • Beware of the Dogs [Secretly Canadian, 2019] A-
  • Flood [Secretly Canadian, 2022] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Beware of the Dogs [Secretly Canadian, 2019]
In plain English and unassuming soprano, a musical encyclopedia of assholes, all male not just because she's female but because assholes generally are. Yes there are full-on predators--the rich prick with his dick out and the boy-will-be-boy who knows why she wears her shirt so low oh yes he does. But most are more ordinary--the intimidator, the reckless driver, the coke-snorter, the one-percenter, the big shot wishing she'd drop the attitude, the lunch date gabbing about himself, the feckless no-show, the guy who was never home enough, the guy she did her best to love, the guy whose baby she doesn't want, the guy she misses even now. Some ladies do actually love outlaws, and too often they get what they put in for. But most women are just looking for an interesting man who'll respect her and stick around. These do exist in some quantity, I believe. But as it is written, they can be hard to find. A-

Flood [Secretly Canadian, 2022]
Beware of the Dogs was what it said it was: the sweet-voiced, sharp-tongued rundown on a kennel's worth of pricks and creeps so catchy it could have fueled a songwriting seminar. Here Donnelly is sparer and vaguer, giving off the never fully defined feeling that she tried to make a go of it with a guy or two who in crucial respects passed muster--or so it seemed, until, for instance: "Levelheadedness has made for a disastrous love/I know it, you know it." Watching a movie next to a chain smoker, as she puts it, she lowers her expectations like she's dressing up for New Year's Eve. She doesn't let on when he pinches her hard underwater while kissing her sweet up top, and sometimes she feels better against her better judgment even so. But if love is what this is, it doesn't soothe her or move her, and the quiet melancholy of these songs conveys that throughout. A-