Dodie’s debut album ‘Build a Problem’ is a soundtrack of lost love, relationships, and sexuality. The Essex born, YouTube raised, singer-songwriter has bared her soul across 22 songs of folk-pop, comprising of fan favourites posted on her YouTube in 2016, to new unheard tracks.
Fans of Dodie will probably associate her with sweet, layered harmonies and a mahogany brown ukulele. However, this record moves on from the shy, adolescent singer/songwriter from YouTube, and establishes Dodie as a prolific and self-aware lyricist and musician.
The opening track ‘Air So Sweet’ establishes the album as one unafraid to use stillness. We are introduced to soft 3-part harmonies and subtle percussion, yet the song holds power. It is the type of record that could yield silence in a crowded hall.
Dodie’s signature harmonies are present throughout the entire album. Her English accent is accentuated by layered melodic lines, somewhat contributing to her sweet, vulnerable image. Her warm tone and alto range are highlighted in the song ‘I Kissed Someone (it wasn’t you)’, where she masters the balance between spoken word and song. Using a narrow range of notes in the main melody lines allow us to hear the lyrics as though they were almost spoken, before we are hit with a cacophony of dissonant vocal harmonies over beautiful reverberated orchestral strings.
The record hosts a variety of instrumentation. Records are at their most emotive when Dodie’s signature ukulele is accompanied by sultry strings, such as in the 8th track on the album ‘Four Tequilas Down’.
“the entire album’s transitions are to be celebrated as much as the tracks themselves, with many songs leading into each other as if Dodie were playing live”
Known for her witty and honest lyrics, Dodie bravely includes two track on the record which are purely instrumental. Titled merely ‘.’ And ‘?’, the pieces wouldn’t be out of place in a grand music hall. The song’s use of suspension and resolution are blissful. ‘.’ cleverly transitions into the next track ‘sorry’. In fact, the entire album’s transitions are to be celebrated as much as the tracks themselves, with many songs leading into each other as if Dodie were playing live.
She is unafraid to stray from the typical structure of a pop ballad, letting the music lead listeners through tracks rather like Alice through the looking glass. We are unsure where we will end up, but too entranced to care.
Mental health is a key trope throughout the record, epitomised in the track ‘Before the Line’, a beautifully fragile ode to depression and depersonalisation. With lines such as “Now every morning since the line between my lives, I greet the sun, and ask, “have I already died?,” it is hard not to sympathise yet envy Dodie at the same time. We are sorry for the pain she has experienced, but jealous of her ease in opening up her soul.
“‘Build a Problem’ is a mature, sophisticated, and delicate take on navigating life’s heartbreaks and downfalls”
Dodie is Generation Z’s answer to Regina Spektor, with an air of Phoebe Bridges. She is wonderfully quirky, yet utterly relatable. She addresses the difficult parts of life with delicacy, sensitivity, and unapologetic honesty. As a debut album, from someone who has been flitting around the edge of a music industry for some time, ‘Build a Problem’ is a mature, sophisticated, and delicate take on navigating life’s heartbreaks and downfalls. It is triumphant in its poetic elegance, beautifully construed harmonies, and hair-raising orchestral arrangements.
Reviewer rating- 9/10
Emily Hall (read more from Emily here)