English singer-songwriter dodie has been a little quiet in the last year. Her presence on social media hasn’t waned, but aside from occasional updates and covers, her YouTube channel has been somewhat silent. In September, it became clear that this time was spent hard at work: ‘Human’, the lead single from an upcoming EP of the same name, showed off a bold new direction for dodie’s music. Between this and the second single ‘If I’m Being Honest’, it’s clear that dodie’s production and overall sound has evolved dramatically. Her first EP, Intertwined, feels like a house show surrounded by friends; it’s intimate in some moments and full of ecstacy in others. The second EP You follows suit, but the addition of a string section gives it a more cinematic feel and show’s off dodie’s affinity for musicals. ‘Human’ is something different though: a deepening of that cinematic quality, without sacrificing the deep, personal element that makes the music so endearing.
The production on ‘Human’ blends a LoFi acoustic sample and electronic elements with a gorgeous string section, all of which compliment dodie’s incredible vocals perfectly. Her vocal performance is quiet, subdued and a little eerie in the right places; it’s also backed up by incredible harmonies aided by guest vocalist Tom Walker. The uplifting verses on ‘Human’ are juxtaposed against a haunting change in harmony in the chorus that really sets this song apart in her catalogue.
‘If I’m Being Honest’, the second single, followed suit: the light keyboards and soft vocals of the introduction build into a stunning crescendo of swelling strings and soaring vocals. This is dodie in her element, building entire worlds and stories out of a single feeling. The Human EP, which will be released January 18, delivers on the promise of these singles and is a staggering achievement for an artist who is on the brink of really hitting her stride.
The seven-song EP is experimental, meticulously crafted and a huge step for dodie. The elements that define her unique sound are all there: the open track ‘Arms Unfolding’ is an a capella testament to the power of her delicate, vulnerable layers of vocal harmonies. ‘She’, an older song reworked for the EP, maintains the feeling of those acoustic demos while elevating it to the dreamy, almost ethereal style that surrounds much of the music on Human.
But as I mentioned, this isn’t just a continuation of what made dodie so wonderful in the past: it’s an expedition into new territory. For all the airy strings and blissful, vulnerable vocals, there’s something else brewing under the surface. My favourite track on this EP is ‘Monster’, which sounds nothing at all like what you might be expecting. Driven by a drum machine, synthesizers, and a much more forceful, energetic vocal performance than we are used to. ‘Monster’ is aggressive and explosive, a perfect anthem of frustration at being deliberately misconstrued. There has always been room for this kind of sentiment in dodie’s catalogue but nothing comes close to this: the power of the lyrics combines with a rhythmic quality that lends that message so much power.
‘Monster’ is the boldest step for dodie on this record, but every song represents a huge leap in the quality of her music. The cinematic quality of her music comes to a head in ‘Not What I Meant’, which sounds like it has been pulled straight out of a musical. Actually, it’s better than that: it’s a fully formed musical in itself, condensed into two and a half minutes of brilliance. Each song is a separate, perfectly crafted experience, but they come together to form something even better than the sum of its parts.
Human is a huge, completely unprecedented turning point for dodie, so much so that I can barely even picture her in the same way as I did previously. There’s a grandness to her vision that hadn’t been fully realised until now. Her music has always suited, smaller venues, but the material on this EP is bigger than that. dodie’s voice could peel away the roof of any venue and turn the stars themselves into members of her audience. Whether you’re listening to Human through headphones on the way to class, or hearing it performed live by dodie, or even catching it on the radio while you’re out and about, you might want to stop whatever you’re doing and really focus on it. No matter what else might be happening around you, this EP has magic powers: once you’re listening to it, the only things in the world that matter are you, dodie’s voice and the impossible beauty that expounds from it. Human is larger than life and nothing quite compares to the connection I feel with this record. There’s a whole universe inside of it just waiting for you; getting lost in it will be the best decision you make all year.