Album Review: Build a Problem // dodie

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Dodie Clark might be known for the intimate, chatty viral videos she began uploading to YouTube way back in 2011 but her debut album Build A Problem shows there is more to the Essex native than jam sessions in her bedroom.

While the album release faced delays due to Covid and Brexit, the 22-track album, of songs ranging from intimate with an acoustic feel to upbeat, proves to be worth the wait — for diehard fans and new listeners alike.

The album opener ‘Air So Sweet’ could be mistaken for a Billie Eilish track, with the thumping beat in the background alongside soft, almost haunting vocals whilst ‘Hate Myself’ (contrary to the title) is an upbeat, percussion heavy track. ‘I Kissed Someone (It Wasn’t You)’ feels self aware and vulnerable, almost a musical diary entry — allowing the listener to see yet another side to dodie.

‘Cool Girl’ commands the attention of the listener, through the repeated refrain “I’ll be different, I’ll be quiet, I’ll be easy” and the gorgeous vocal harmonies — though it feels intimate and personal, it resonates with people’s desire to shed their imperfections to win other people’s affections. ‘Special Girl’ is an upbeat, peppy anthem about accepting the messiest part of yourself.

‘Rainbow’ is a soft, acoustic track, with strings and clarinet making what was originally a sparse demo a song full of warmth and joy, chronicling dodie’s sexuality — something she has discussed on her YouTube channel before. The two instrumental tracks, much like their names ‘?’ and ‘.’ , are simple — easing the listener into the next part of the vast album.

‘Four Tequilas Downgoes down much easier than the drink, as dodie’s sweet whispery vocals take the listener through the sweetness and regret of a messy relationship. Though it starts off hazy and intimate, ‘Sorry’ moves the album from relaxed bedroom pop to stunning orchestral ballads. ‘When’ is soft, a feather light song full of self reflection, which allows dodie to lay herself bare before the listener. 

‘Before the Linegoes from soft to soaring, grabbing the listeners attention almost immediately. ‘Guilty’ is one of my favourite tracks on the album – a sweet, acoustic track full of vocal harmonies and a catchy hook. 

‘Boys Like You’ is a no frills pop song about falling for the wrong people— even when they feel like the right people —— which gives dodie’s personal pop more of a relatable feel (particularly if, like me, you’re single!). 

The album ends with eight demos, the whispery acoustic track bored like me, the vulnerable let go, soft-sounding ‘bite back’, haunting ‘one last time, please’, harmony-filled ‘all my daughters’, dreamy ‘anything and the gorgeous drawl of penultimate track ‘in the bed‘. The album’s final track ‘don’t quite belong is a mixture of soft and soaring vocals, closed off and confident, a brilliant insight into the woman beyond her social media fame. Though she might feel miles away from us ordinary folk, with her giant fan base, dodie captures emotions and feelings we’ve all felt at some point in our lives.

Build A Problem doesn’t feel like a debut album, as it blends fun and theatrics with vulnerable, intimate pop music effortlessly, allowing the listener not only to appreciate the care and attention that’s gone into creating the album but to see a flawed, and human, side to the woman behind the tracks.

Words by Jennifer Rose


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