There is a very fine line between “clever” and “cutesy” – and cutesy usually winds up smarmy and annoying, especially when it comes to music. Sarah Dooley, however, knows how to be clever, a little whimsical (but not overboard) and very deft at juggling with her lyrics and arrangements. Her vocals are warmly embracing; they range from soft and whispery to husky and seasoned – always tuneful and fitting to the songs. This debut album, Stupid Things, is a collection of piano-based melodic pop with wry lyrical observations that are charming and endearing. “Peonies” is a sweetly-sad number (“…I left with a popsicle of peonies…”); “Willow Tree” is a subdued moment that builds up to an emotional pitch with its pleading vocals at the end. “Nine Inch Snow” begins as a nice, stripped down piece which changes direction with a lush build up and arrangement; “I Want You To Wonder” is a gentle, bare bones “fuck you” song, which is the best way to deliver the message “you broke my heart, you piece of shit” (NOT her lyrics, just a statement!). It takes subtlety, confidence and skill to do this and Sarah Dooley has it.
This is a fine entry into the recorded music world. It’ll be fun watching her develop even further. Stupid Things is quite smart.