Ten years ago, an Essex teenager called Dodie Clark started uploading cover songs and original tracks to her YouTube channel, often replete with ukulele. Though she remained unsigned, in the years that followed, EP releases saw the singer-songwriter charting in both the UK and US – no doubt partly as a result of her already massive online following.
But to frame her success as solely rooted in YouTube fame is to minimise the work and growth evident on Clark’s sweet debut album. Build a Problem comprises cinematic compositions with ripples of strings, piano and guitar, echoes of clarinet, all topped with a mellifluous voice that recalls Regina Spektor without the bite. Clark is unafraid to be messy and tender in candid lyrics that consider relationships with others and herself (“Am I the only one wishing life away? Never caught up in the moment, busy begging the past to stay”).
Featuring sprawling intervals of vocal harmonies and instrumentals (as on a track called, simply, ?), there’s an ambition here beyond mere John Lewis ad-style twee acoustic pop. Standout tracks such as Special Girl, with its intricate percussion, offer an insight into the intriguing, playful sonic flavours Clark could be exploring more thoroughly.