Stella Donnelly – Flood
Lacking the bark and bite of her righteous debut, the Australian musician's sophomore release simply washes over you
When Australian songwriter Stella Donnelly began making international waves back in 2017, she did so as the #metoo movement crescendoed. Her single that autumn, Boys Will Be Boys, addressed the culture of victim blaming as she sang in honour of a friend who had been sexually abused. This knack for calling out tough topics against tender guitar strings followed through in 2019’s Beware of the Dogs with tracks that rallied against abusers (Old Man) and that racist Uncle at the family’s festive table (Seasons Greetings).
By contrast, its follow-up Flood is far more melancholy. Lead single Lungs tempts us with a Mitski-esque transition from trusted electric guitar to snappy synths. But while the American-Japanese songwriter revelled in theatrics, Donnelly tends to keep things bare-boned. Take the huge space present in vocal and one-handed chord-led Underwater, or the bitesize brass of Restricted Account, akin to fellow Aussie bunch Camp Cope’s recent foray into a gentler pace.
The record was written during Donnelly's time in the rainforests of Australia vowing to reconnect her to the “small self”. And perhaps that’s part of the problem. Flood doesn’t feel very rooted. The shift into timid keys away from the beefier guitar tones makes everything appear ephemeral. While her captivating vocals remain, Donnelly’s lack of bark and bite from the debut means this record, as the name suggests, mostly washes over you.
Listen to: Lungs, Underwater, This Week