Cultures Music

Review: Dodie’s ‘Build a Problem’

Illustration by Ben Beechener

‘But dodie has been releasing songs on Youtube since 2011, how has she only just released her debut album?’ is the perfectly valid question many, including myself, have been asking themselves after the release of Build A Problem on May 7 2021. dodie (Dorothy Miranda Clark), has been writing, producing and releasing her own work as extended plays (EP’s) since 2016, with Intertwined (2016) being followed by You (2017) and Human (2019), all released with varying degrees of critical success. However, this debut placed at number three on the UK album charts, making it dodie’s highest-charting release. Above all else, this album presents everything that is typical of dodie; her soft, harmonious, voice and her raw articulation of emotion, brought to a crescendo in a collection of songs which she herself professes to be “unstable” but “honest.”

The stage is set with the short and delicate one-minute album opener ‘Air so Sweet,’ a song that sounds and feels like a breath of fresh air. This blends nicely into the fifth single released by dodie, ‘Hate Myself’, a comical ‘pop-song’ take on the difficulties surrounding someone who processes their feelings internally. The tone changes somewhat in the next track, ‘I Kissed Someone (It Wasn’t You)’, which is a beautiful but dark song about trying to fill a gaping hole with someone else and feeling worse for it; my only criticism of this song was that it is too short!

‘Cool Girl’ is a light and upbeat third single from dodie about the suppression of aspects of oneself in order to be deemed lovable. While still a typically beautiful song, both the lyrics and musicality fall short of some of the more developed tracks on this album. ‘Special Girl’ redeems this slight shortfall with its ambitious rhythms and message of embracing one’s unique personality, and proves that there was a destination of growth to arrive at after ‘Cool Girl’. 

The fourth single, ‘Rainbow’, a sad but sweet song about the difficulties of shame many in the LGBTQ+ community deal and have had to deal with, is “the beginning of the six songs on this album that are tied together seamlessly by [a] beautiful 13-piece string section” composed by dodie, and arguably begins the best half of the album’s disc one. The seamless and harmonic transition between the tracks ‘?’, ‘Four Tequilas Down’, ‘.’, and ‘Sorry’, might be “uninformative and ungrounded” in Ashley Bardhan’s opinion, yet they demonstrate dodie’s clear talent for organic lyricism and exquisite instrumentals. ‘When’ and ‘Before the Line’ complete this album’s beautifully original tracks with their powerful crescendos and lyrics calling to a conclusion the recognition that “I’ll never be sixteen again.” In a way, I think this album would have been best ended on ‘Before the Line’, as all the scattered thoughts of the prior tracks seem brought together here and then immediately re-tangled in the bonus tracks ‘Guiltless’ and ‘Boys Like You’ (though both pleasing tracks in themselves).

Disc two consists of demos that didn’t quite make the cut, and for many of these it is fairly clear to see why, as they are lacking in complexity. However, some honorable mentions are ‘let go’ and ‘all my daughters’ because their lyrical nuance and darker tones stand out against the rest. Nevertheless, the inclusion of the demos and bonus tracks complements this sense of dodie’s debut as a collection of her musical thoughts. In this way, the flow of the majority of the first disc merely strengthens the evidence that dodie is a seriously talented musician as well as a raw and honest soul. Build A Problem is not to be missed, by fans and soon-to-be fans alike.

Jennifer Goodier (she/her) is going on to her second year of history at Brasenose and enjoys writing about the lighter side of life, with a special interest in all things playlist related.