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Stella Donnelly is once again excellently charming and engaging on Flood

"Flood"

Release date: 26 August 2022
9/10
Stella donnelly flood art
26 August 2022, 00:00 Written by Ross Horton
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It’s hard not to root for Stella Donnelly.

Back in 2017, she released the wonderfully titled, wonderfully written Thrush Metal - an EP that succinctly and effectively laid out her best qualities for those in the know to grab a hold of and take to their heart. At only 18 minutes, the EP stands as one of the best snapshots of where folky indie-pop was at the time, but also pointed forwards, toward where Donnelly would push the genre on her excellent 2019 album Beware of the Dogs.

That album - her debut - was, for many people, one of the best albums of the year, and it offered a real insight into an artist who could eventually go on to become one of the engaging and exciting voices in modern popular music.

With Flood, Donnelly has confirmed her place amongst the upper echelon of writers within her genre. It’s a continuation of where she’s been lyrically, but a significant development in terms of songwriting. Where Dogs scaffolded its emotional complexity with scruffy hooks and reliable indie fare, Flood offers a more engaging, more universal lyricism and a newfound confidence in pushing the music into the foreground, using a variety of excellent sonic flourishes.

Take “Oh My My My”, for example. Though written about the loss of her grandmother, Donnelly’s impassioned vocal performance and the elegant synth lines offer a juxtaposition that transcends the biographical context and makes it into something we can all feel on an emotional level. The opener, “Lungs”, is full of rich ideas – from the relentlessness of the drum lines and the fullness of the textures that surround them. Donnelly’s voice, as always, is clear and bright and wonderful, and the influence of Broadcast adds another colour to Donnelly’s palette.

The title track is charming in a nostalgic, teen dream sense – cute without being cutesy, soft without being frail. It evokes both Courtney Barnett and Wolf Alice but retains a uniqueness that ends up defining Donnelly’s craft. “How Was Your Day?” hits a lot of the same pleasure centres that Dry Cleaning go for, but does so in a way that’s refreshing and rewarding where, say, “Scratchcard Lanyard” is sour and dour (in a good way!)

Hopefully you’ll find that “Restricted Account” is a woolly jumper of a song, and sense that the acknowledged influence of Adrianne Lenker (on “Underwater”) is present enough to be appreciated but subtle enough to be missed for the first few listens.

Flood is a superb album, by an artist who hasn’t even given us a glimpse of her potential. It’s charming and enjoyable and engaging and attractive and all of the adjectives you could ever want out of an indie-pop record - and not only does it hold up to multiple listens, it actually seems to expand and grow in stature with each run-through. Excellent work from an excellent artist.

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