Chloe Moriondo and dodie: From ukulele pop to universal success

The sugary sweet girl playing ukulele in their bedroom has become the butt of many, let’s face it, sexist jokes. Both dodie and Chloe Moriondo are artists who have in the past been constricted to this box, as YouTube ukulele covers and original songs are where both grew their audience. Both musicians are openly LGBTQ+, and have spoken publicly about growing up online, with dodie  recently championing the accessibility of the ukulele as an instrument for young musicians finding their sound. On May 7th, ‘Blood Bunny’ and ‘Build a Problem’ were released; defiantly queer, personal and catchy albums fit for every mood possible, going in different directions which I’m so ready to follow.

As both gradually released their singles, I felt inspired by the diverging sounds they were exploring which stemmed from their musical roots, after years of seeing similar young women and girls on the internet written off as stereotypes. Moriondo’s ‘I Want to Be With you’, ‘Manta Rays’ and ‘I Eat Boys’ felt like a bridge between the naivety, hopefulness, and minimalistic instrumentals of ‘Rabbit Hearted.’ and the bouncy and electric mystical bops of ‘Spirit Orb’. These singles were a fantastic sign of a powerful album to come which would combine the lulling melodies of Moriondo’s earlier music with the pop-punk punch of her more recent ventures, inspired by artists like girl in red. Dodie’s singles also felt like bridging a gap of maturity between the danceable yearning of ‘Would You Be So Kind’ and ‘You’ and the gutsy cool of strings and harmonies of the ‘Human’ ep. ‘Cool Girl’ and ‘Hate Myself’ build to quiet fury in between precise whispers and percussive and poetic lyrics about insecurity.

Both ‘Blood Bunny’ and ‘Build a Problem’ feel like the pulse of a party for one that proves that the conclusion of “girl with ukulele = bad” is so wrong.

‘Blood Bunny’ fills the room of clean guitar riffs and tongue-in-cheek call backs to older songs, opening the album with the line “I finally got my licence… Was just going through a crisis” as a reference to their song ‘Road Trip’, released 3 years ago at a time where Moriondo was very different. Songs like ‘Favorite Band’ where Moriondo tells a love interest she prefers listening to Paramore than spending time with them are catchy and funny. ‘Vapor’ is raw and displays the glory of Moriondo’s smooth and powerful voice, and ‘Strawberry Blonde’s’ guitar intro is reminiscent of The Cure’s ‘To Wish Impossible Things’. My favourite song from the album has to be ‘What If It Doesn’t End Well’ for the satisfying climax of Moriondo’s desperate vocals amongst a clammer of pounding drums and swirling electric guitar after a stripped back climb of two verses and a chorus. ‘End Well’ is the perfect conclusion to the glorious growth Moriondo relishes in throughout the album.

‘Build A Problem’ explores the passive attack of maturing in the face of trauma and feeling out of control in developing bad habits and making mistakes. Dodie has the power to pull percussion into every parameter of song, and the rhythmic fun that this album encapsulates without coming across as convoluted, is fabulous. ‘Special Girl’ is a great example of dodie’s strengths – where her smooth and sarcastic harmonies raise hairs on the back of necks and dance around clarinet scales and the sharp-edged taps of drums. The album also revisits old favourites, like ‘When’ and ‘Rainbow’, where the celebratory or aching string arrangements swell to lush and painful heights; “I’m too damp for a spark” is a lyric I never fail to tear up at. Furthermore, the gorgeously bitter and painful lyrics and guitar strums of ‘Before the Line’, ‘Four Tequilas Down’ and ‘I Kissed Someone (It Wasn’t You)’ feel like her most vulnerable songs yet, as the mellow layers of strings and singing echo as though they are leaking out of the deepest pits of her brain. The lyric videos made for all the songs, directed by Jack Howard, are a tender and sublime accomplice to the album, and definitely worth a watch on second listen.

Both albums encapsulate what it means to grow and highlight the strengths of personal reflection to create new music. ‘Build a Problem’ is gentle and angry, can be danced or cried to (often simultaneously), and it’s brilliant. ‘Blood Bunny’ is a loud and rebellious hum of what’s to come for Moriondo. As they groove to come into their own styles, long since humble beginnings on YouTube, Moriondo and dodie are inspirational artists well worth listening to.

Image: Laura Py on Flickr. 

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