I spent nine months during the pandemic living with my parents in rural west Clare; in the midst of the world falling apart, the appreciation of where I am from sored in heights my teenage self would shiver at. I had a new pair of eyes, and everything in my surroundings was high-res and glorious.
I am not sure how unique this experience is to me, but one other person who seemed to have a similar experience was Stella Donnelly. Only she channelled her energy and experience into her beautiful sophomore album Flood.
Flood is largely different to Donnelly’s debut. The creation process with Donnelly is more open to collaboration and input from those around her, but also working with a loser timeline. In fact, the tracklist of Flood is just eleven songs from forty-three written as Donnelly travelled around the rainforests of Australia’s Bellingen. Whilst, like most, realizing the most important parts of life, she was left to rediscover her ‘smaller self.
This lines up nicely with the use of piano in Flood, which was not present in her debut Beware of the Dog, a return to a key instrument in her childhood, front and centre of her creative process Inspiration came from bird watching, both with her own eyes but also photographer Tom Hunt, whose work is used for the album’s cover. The image also inspired singles “Flood”, “Lungs”, and other album tracks.
Live, Donnelly’s stage presence is endearing and warm; luckily for those not privileged enough to see her (yet), the same warmth and love are radiated throughout Flood. The vocals and harmonies give you an audible injection of zest into your body. Even when covering topics not so cheery, ‘How Was Your Day’ tackles the difficulties in ending a relationship, which leaves you singing the infectious chorus to yourself as though it was a chirpy soundtrack to the perfect indie rom-com. Of course, it’s not an album of deception. ‘Morning Silence’ pulls on your emotions, and the music supports it. Similarly, ‘This Week’ touches on darkness but also the process of human emotion and how that can change.
For me, ‘Cold’, the album closer, is a rich, layered body of work musically but also with the vocal range. Donnelly’s voice can be sweet and commanding. An album highlight – oozing romance and melody to get your body swaying and allowing a beautiful escape to romanticize your life while chanting repetition to join in with.
As a whole, it’s a collection of work with individual unique moments of beauty within each song, almost like the way one scene of nature can provide several vibrant focus points to appreciate. The soundtrack of the last days of summer and the mesh of emotions one can feel and relate to with that.