Friday, March 29th, 2019

Stella Donnelly – Tricks

brb getting Southern Cross tattoo removed


Ian Mathers: Sometimes the best way to deal with hostility disguised as aggressive good cheer is with, well, hostility disguised as aggressive good cheer.

Edward Okulicz: “Tricks” has some sharply observed lines, and I’m interested in how a song like this travels because in its own way, the minor details are subtle enough that I don’t think they are immediately graspable to a non-Australian: Southern Cross tattoos signify unsophisticated, oafish patriotism (with some connotations of gang violence and keep-Australia-white solidarity) and Kyle and Jackie O… well, just get rid of “patriotism” and repeat. But it also has some groaners — the first verse isn’t strong, and the “muck”/”laid” rhyme fake-out is the sort of non-joke that makes me think Donnelly isn’t witty, just crassly superior. Whatever those faults, I like her voice, and I like how it has a kind of inherent sunniness but is still capable of getting spiky and mean and her laugh could shrink a pair of balls from across the room. It’s as if people have told her how lovely she sings and she wants to argue the point. And musically she sounds like she’s had a strong education in Australian late 90s indie, which is a fine thing. It’s not revelatory but I like hearing a voice like my own sometimes, and I think there’ll be better to come from her as she refines her craft and self-edits.

Nortey Dowuona: Sliding, swinging guitar kick flips over a tranquil river of bass and bubbling drums buoy Stella’s gleeful, excited coo.

Anthony Easton: These points are entirely for how she leers the line “You’re always wanting a kiss and then you want to get laid/get laid/get laid” with an indefatigable loathing. 

Alfred Soto: This sports a couple of fabulous riffs, most fabulously in the last minute when the riff is as coruscating as her put-downs. Sometimes her voice and the put-downs aren’t up to the rest of the arrangement, only don’t tell her or she’ll come after me.

Stephen Eisermann: The best fuck you songs ooze with personality, whether that is expressed through phrasing, vocal tics, laughter mid-track, or, as is expressed here, through all three. Stella Donnelly starts the song with a soft vocal that gets progressively more rough as the song continues, with added flourishes of accents, ad-libs, and laughter to really sell just how over it she is. Petty is my favorite sound and Stella Donnelly is very petty here.

Katherine St Asaph: Amazing how fast I went from “we acknowledge only one singer-songwriter named Donelly in this house” to “this rules.” But I can’t tell you what a relief it is to hear a highly touted singer-songwriter who’s not MOR or beige or sedate, but bursting with laughter and pulse and venom. Add a twisted guitar line, an exhausted-but-subtle lyric (high point: how she leaches all the plosives out of “tattoo,” making it sound as ridiculous as I’m sure the actual ink looks), and a vocal that’s the gleeful midpoint of Courtney Barnett and The Lovely Eggs, too amused to even bother with contempt.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: It’s such a rare delight to hear a rock song with such purposeful arranging. From the simple framework to the angular guitars to the one-off vibraslap, the instrumentation here is constantly matching Donnelly’s puckish, acerbic delivery. There are so many clever details: the plinking piano melody that appears in the final chorus, highlighting the song’s sarcastic tone one last time; the flagellating guitar riff that underscores “You want all of us to pull you out of the muck”; the heavy reverb placed on the first utterance of “laid,” as if to make Donnelly sound like she’s hypnotized the horndog. It’s funny to think that “Tricks” is about hecklers who wanted her to play other people’s songs — how much music is better than this?

Iris Xie: “Tricks” contains a level of playful derision is something I vibe with, as it reminds me very much of when I message my friends, “I can’t believe what fucking happened to me today,” and we text and/or get together to vent about the extraordinary levels of stupidity I just experienced. The level of glee when she sings “you tell me I’d look much better if I dropped the attitude,” and the way she launches into the first part of “attitude” is full on delicious, knowing condescension, and the decision to not entertain entitled men, and reminds me of many instances like this ridiculous Yelp review that some douchebag left because the cashier didn’t smile for him. Combined with the surf rock vibes and an irresistible hook, it’s a sunny, breezy, but free take on the sheer ludicrousness of toxic masculinity, but also the amount of fun and joy when you can call it out and pinpoint it so clearly and not feel askew about it. Stella Donnelly has that confidence in spades, and it’s glorious.

Reader average: [6.5] (6 votes)

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3 Responses to “Stella Donnelly – Tricks”

  1. Surprised no one mentioned Angie Hart, her voice reminds me of Frente instantly.

  2. Like CB the initial reference point for me was Waikiki, but without Frente there’s no Waikiki so yeah. And there’s definitely some Angie Hart in her too.

  3. regret not blurbing this one more every day bc it has been stuck in my head for a week