Album Review: dodie finds beauty in the struggle on debut “Build A Problem”

dodie finds beauty in the struggle on debut “Build A Problem”

There’s a moment on dodie’s debut album Build A Problem in which it becomes apparent that the singer/songwriter, in her search for the right words to encapsulate all the raw and bittersweet moments that define being human, has stumbled upon something inconceivably honest. It comes only a few minutes into the album on a song morosely titled “Hate Myself,” rising out dodie’s penchant for sparse but lofty melodies and an overlay of her piercingly clarion murmurs that leave nothing but goosebumps on your arms. As the track crescendos from a buoyant ballad and into an ecstatic anthem, dodie paints a remarkably scrupulous self-portrait so meticulously intimate that its relatability is flooring. Tucked into the dense lyricism of “Hate Myself” is not just a piece of dodie, but also a piece of us — the memory of a conversation we’ve all had with either friend or partner, the kind where one sits in silence and the other silently agonizes. “When you go quiet I hate myself,” she croons against the song’s exuberant medley and the weight of dodie’s eviscerating introspection and her own desperate desire to understand another’s silence, even as it wounds her, is near unendurable.

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For dodie, that discomfort and pain is the very soul of Build A Problem. In the past, dodie saw only the complications her questions created — the problems she would build out of the anxieties her heart. On the woeful echo-chamber “I Kissed Someone (It Wasn’t You)” she threads the story of a discarded kiss and all its tragic implications; “Cool Girl” tracks the secret desire to avoid the trappings of love (or voicing one’s concerns and hopes) and to just be the easy, breezy, quiet cool girl (and a sharp nod to Rosamund Pike’s character Amy’s “cool girl” monologue in Gone Girl); while on songs like “Four Tequilas Down” and “Sorry” dodie sings with such agonizing lucidity about the messy moments before, during, and after an alcohol-fueled “sexual mistake.” dodie does little to shy away from the moments in her life that have forced her to question the very fabric of who she believed herself to be and earnestly she searches them for answers. Because to build a problem implies the need to solve it — but the journey there is anything but easy.

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Amidst a collection of erratic beats (including the noisy patter of an upright piano with rubber on its strings) on “Special Girl,” dodie tries to reckon with the lopsided tooth and nail crawl she’s had to engage in her whole life to earn any personal validation: “I found my worth in this world / By proving I’m a special girl / Time and time again,” she mulls along to the elastic melody. “Guiltless” is a poignant and heart-wrenching look at a child’s attempt to recognize their own trauma, of the inevitable confrontation understanding it creates with one’s parents, and the heartbreaking weight of it all: “But I don’t think I’d feel better if I opened your eyes / I’ll carry your burden ’til the day that you die,” dodie promises. And what a burden it can be: on “When” dodie struggles with the very notion of believing she’s ever been in love, let alone questions of whether she ever will or the sense that she’s wasting time waiting for it to arrive. While springy “Boys Like You” coils itself around both dodie’s annoyance at craving the attention of people who she knows will disappoint her, as well as the realization that they’re just acting out their own trauma (“This is just how we were taught to love”).

Throughout Build A Problem dodie displays an understanding of the severity of understanding why she is the way she is with a sobering candidness — maintaining some autonomy even in the face of such helplessness. “Oh, but I’m not bitter, I’m just tired / No use getting angry at the way that you’re wired,” she croons, tucking a profound truth in such briskly potent lyricism. On “Rainbow,” dodie edges the closest she’s ever been to understanding that she’s not what other people say she is — and she finds fear there, sorrow, and a sharp sense of being adrift at that brink. But the song’s sadness is cushioned by its spirited medley of strings, affording some small hope in the recognition of unhappiness — if only because in revealing to us the opportunity to replace it with happiness, we’re so importantly reminded that there is yet still happiness to be found.

Build a Problem is out now, buy it here. Catch dodie in Los Angeles at The Theatre at Ace Hotel on March 25, 2022, for the last stop of her tour. Lizzy McAlpine supports. Visit dodie’s website, Instagram and Twitter to stay updated.

dodie Tour Dates – 2022


Monday, February 7 – Chicago, IL Riviera Theatre
Wednesday, February 9 Milwaukee, WI The Rave II
Friday, February 11 – Saint Louis, MO Delmar Hall
Friday, February 13 – Nashville, TN Ryman Auditorium
Monday, February 14 – Indianapolis, IN Egyptian Room at Old National Centre
Tuesday, February 15 – Columbus, OH Newport Music Hall
Wednesday, February 16 – Royal Oak, MI Royal Oak Music Theatre
Friday, February 18 – Toronto, ON Venue TBD
Saturday, February 19 – Montréal, QC Corona Theatre
Tuesday, February 22 – Philadelphia, PA The Fillmore Philadelphia
Thursday, February 24 – Brooklyn, NY Kings Theatre
Friday, February 25 – Boston, MA Orpheum Theatre
Monday, February 28 – Silver Spring, MD The Fillmore Silver Spring
Tuesday, March 1 – Charlotte, NC The Underground
Wednesday, March 2 – Atlanta, GA Tabernacle
Friday, March 4 – Ft Lauderdale, FL Revolution Live
Saturday, March 5 – Orlando, FL The Plaza Live
Wednesday, March 9 – Houston, TX House of Blues Houston
Thursday, March 10 – Austin, TX Emo’s 
Friday, March 11 – Dallas, TX House of Blues Dallas
Sunday, March 13 – Denver, CO Ogden Theatre
Monday, March 14 – Salt Lake City, UT The Union
Friday, March 18 – Vancouver, BC Vogue Theatre
Saturday, March 19 – Seattle, WA Moore Theatre
Monday, March 21 – Portland, OR Crystal Ballroom
Wednesday, March 23 – San Francisco, CA The Warfield
Friday, March 25 – Los Angeles, CA The Theatre at Ace Hotel

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