From the moment dodie shared ‘Got Weird’, we knew there was something different here. While her debut album ‘Build A Problem’ showed off her prowess in composing, crafting breathtakingly beautiful orchestral sections to match equally as beautiful lyrics, this opener to a new era showed off her ability to rip it all apart. Seemingly throwing out the rule book and rejecting any boxes she might have built around herself, ‘Hot Mess’ is dodie in her experimental era, ditching the perfect for the uncomfortable.
It suits the title perfectly. Just like Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Fleabag or a character plucked from a Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach movie, Dodie’s ‘Hot Mess’ is chaotic yet tender, balancing confidence with a distinct sense of having absolutely no idea what you’re doing, desperately clinging to and pushing people away. Expressed perfectly in the opening song as if it’s the overture to the story, “brain rot in a pretty dress” sets the atmosphere for the EP, you’re invited to bring your baggage.
But when we drop into ‘Lonely Bones’, a song that dodie describes as one of her favourite songs she’s ever written, the perfection of her earlier work slides back in. But you know what, I simply don’t think she can help it. Creating an almost Sondheim-like melody that’s almost reminiscent of a Golden Era musical if it was instrumentalised by Joni Mitchell – making something this stunning seems to come easily. Packed with dodie’s signature harmonies, there’s still a differentiation between this and album tracks, something in it that screams this hasn’t been overthought. Delivering a moment of optimism amid a deep-set
personal panic, it lifts you out of the pit of your stomach and lets you hover above it for three minutes or so.
Throughout there’s one certain thought; these are songs dodie wouldn’t have created a year or so again. They’re a clear continuation of growth, proof that the artist who has been writing and releasing relentlessly online for nearly a decade is not settling. dodie is clearly still a student but of something else now. What else is there really to learn about crafting a song when you can literally write orchestral sections and merge them into a pop song? She could have so easily stayed there and turned out another ‘Build A Problem’, wowed us with more strings and kept going like that. But the sense that she’s instead allowing herself to be a student of feeling over skill, choosing to make something that’s unexpected and difficult and almost visceral in its feeling – it’s a testament that she’s only going to keep getting better.
Closing up with ‘No Big Deal (I Love You)’, there’s a realisation to be had that the best of dodie is simply her essence, regardless of whether she’s delivering a piano ballad or a folky guitar number. Bringing her same beautiful yet painfully real lyricism, her perfect pitch, her knack for composition – the only difference is that ‘Hot Mess’ seems to allow a little dash of chaos in, a small glimpse at her imperfect side, a drip from the tap of mid-20s panic; and everyone knows that mess is really what makes a thing fun.
Words: Lucy Harbron