Dodie
Build a Problem


4.0
excellent

Review

by Brendan Schroer CONTRIBUTOR (163 Reviews)
May 10th, 2021 | 26 replies


Release Date: 05/07/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: "Spit to the left, carry on; just smile and say you're good."

Build a Problem is quite the idiosyncratic little experience; what initially comes off as yet another quirky “alt-pop” record blooms into a fascinating journey that’s equal parts intimate and brimming with life. Dodie uses her debut full-length to express incredibly personal and therapeutic topics over soft understated instrumentation, and the results are frankly beautiful. And “frank” really is the best word to use here, as the lack of unnecessary frills or artificial tricks is what gives Build a Problem so much charm. The music is strikingly stark and minimalistic, mostly consisting of quiet piano and string arrangements to serve as the perfect compliment to Dodie’s soft, pillowy voice. Rarely does she become too ostentatious with her singing, and rarely does the music swell and crescendo into something more climactic, but that only makes both occasions more meaningful when they do happen. “Sorry” is one such moment, as Dodie’s vocals blossom into gorgeous harmonies and falsettos as the strings swell for a brief-yet-powerful climax.

But that also came after several songs (barring “.” which serves as its prelude) that kept everything at a low hum; what Dodie excels at here is knowing how not to reveal too much of her hand at any given time. Her keen sense of dynamics really heightens the emotional value of Build a Problem, especially on songs like “Rainbow” and “Cool Girl”. Just listen to how the former combines fingerpicked acoustic guitar with little symphonic flourishes, managing to retain a homely vibe while letting each orchestral swell flesh out the story Dodie’s telling in her lyrics. Or listen to how the latter begins with the same low-key nature as most of the tracklist, before subtly adding more percussion to provide an ever-shifting undertow to the other instruments. The modest “less-is-more” aesthetic is incredibly important to the overall songwriting quality of Build a Problem, because anything that shifts out of that framework immediately becomes more noticeable and memorable by comparison.

The lyrics themselves are often quite transparent, with Dodie exploring themes of love, relationships, guilt, anger, uncertainty, and several more topics in a very matter-of-fact way. That’s not to say they aren’t poetic - they certainly are - but there’s not much obliqueness to them. “Hate Myself”, for instance, has a title that can be taken pretty literally. The song is all about how the narrator starts assuming she’s the problem with all of her relationships due to how they never work; naturally, feelings of self-doubt and self-resentment pop out of the woodwork. Similar lyrics of self-reflection appear on “Sorry”, which details the ways that one’s negative choices and actions start to add up over time; the title itself, of course, refers to the resulting realization and apology. What really makes Build a Problem stand out from so many other records of its kind is that both the lyrics and music are just so… sincere. There’s not a shred of irony or sarcasm in the majority of these songs, at least none that I could perceive. Such earnestness is really refreshing, and pretty unexpected for an artist who already had quite the established following on Youtube before even embarking on her first full-length album.

It’s worth mentioning that Dodie has been diagnosed with depersonalization disorder, which essentially leaves her in an out-of-body state in which she feels disassociated with the world she lives in. This might go some way to explaining why her lyrics meld intimacy and detachment so well, as well as how much resentment and depression fuels her writing. But when accompanied by the hopeful orchestral music, you almost get the sense that she’s always trying to find a way out of this mental hell she’s in; if she has to be direct with her messages and her meanings, she will. Build a Problem is a really special kind of record, one that uses musical subtlety and Dodie’s emotional baggage to tackle topics that many would feel uncomfortable confronting. It’s as if we’re peering into a window to observe an alien who constantly feels imposed upon, and perhaps we can relate to her a little more than we’d like to admit.



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user ratings (14)
3.2
good


Comments:Add a Comment 
DivergentThinking
Contributing Reviewer
May 10th 2021


9939 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This one hit me a lot harder than I thought it would. Beautiful stuff

Nocte
Staff Reviewer
May 10th 2021


14274 Comments


In before: doodie

Digging: Diskord - Degenerations

DivergentThinking
Contributing Reviewer
May 10th 2021


9939 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

lol, I guess someone had to say it



Still not as funny as Booba though

JesperL
Contributing Reviewer
May 10th 2021


3082 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

used to love her videos like approximately every depressed 14 yo zoomer but my god i cannot stand any of her music lol. was kinda hoping this would at least be tolerable since it's a full length but hell no

great review tho!! glad you did enjoy this haha

Digging: The Buildings - Heaven is a Long Exhale

dedex
Contributing Reviewer
May 10th 2021


7979 Comments


aye Booba

Good rev man, don't know that lady at all but this sounds intriguing

DivergentThinking
Contributing Reviewer
May 10th 2021


9939 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks guys!



@Jesper: lol, it's all good man

theBoneyKing
May 10th 2021


20550 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Nice. I'm a fan of Dodie more for her social media presence but I am enjoying quite a bit of this even if it's not my usual kind of thing. I do think she flourishes more in the brighter/poppier stuff, the quiet tracks get a bit floaty with all the strings. I also find it interesting how these YouTube artists build so much steam with EPs and singles for so long before dropping an LP, though in this case I kind of feel like maybe Dodie is best in short doses - the album itself ignoring all the bonus tracks is still only like 31 minutes but structurally it doesn't flow super well, most of the singles are in the front and the back half kind of fizzles out; "Before the Line" barely feels like a closer and the fact that every edition has at least two bonus tracks and the digital versions have a whole bonus disc after that means that the album doesn't leave a super strong impression overall.

Cormano
May 10th 2021


2752 Comments


I'm intrigued

Feather
May 10th 2021


6934 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

@Boney I am with you on your entire take. End of the album really fizzles out and then the spotify version just keeps going on with more than double the content in bonus tracks and demos. Her strength is really in the poppy stuff, which came more front loaded. Still enjoying this though.

SteakByrnes
May 10th 2021


23796 Comments


This was rather boring, turned it off halfway through

Digging: Future Foundation - Trinity

Pikazilla
May 10th 2021


16996 Comments


dodie more like doodie gottem

Feather
May 10th 2021


6934 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Something about listening to Dodie just made me go and revisit Christian Lee Hutson's album which is pretty cool.

theBoneyKing
May 10th 2021


20550 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

That's a very good album but not much like this, huh.

Feather
May 10th 2021


6934 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

@Boney might just be that both are more or less "singer/songwriter" or solo albums which I don't listen to tons of.

theBoneyKing
May 10th 2021


20550 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah I guess that was a bit hasty of me, they are def kinda similar.

Feather
May 10th 2021


6934 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Well, in your defense, what makes them dissimilar is that Christian Lee Hutson's debut album is great front to back!

DivergentThinking
Contributing Reviewer
May 10th 2021


9939 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I never actually got around to listening to Christian Lee Hutson's album... maybe I should get on that

Feather
May 10th 2021


6934 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

@Divergent should have gotten more attention than it did, it is a really strong release. Brings me straight back to the early days of the quarantine now when I hear it though lol

DivergentThinking
Contributing Reviewer
May 10th 2021


9939 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Oh shit, just saw that it only has 17 votes. Alright, I'll check it out and get back to you on that one :]

DadKungFu
May 11th 2021


1194 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is everything I want in a pop album



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