Buffalo band turns 90s influences into original, modern sound

Stress Dolls—a student band out of Buffalo—recently released their self-titled EP on Thursday Nov. 10. The release of this album comes directly after the band’s performance right here in Geneseo, with fellow student bands Ponder the Giraffe and Scarecrow Show. The album features a variety of musical influences, ranging from grunge to indie rock, but lead singer and guitarist Chelsea O’Donnell’s distinctive vocal tone helps deliver a unique twist. Even with the stylistic differences in the songs, the common theme running across the entire album is its ability to revitalize music from the 90s and early 2000s.

The album begins with “Crazy,” which starts off with heavy drums that slowly build into the chorus. O’Donnell belts, “The whole world’s gone crazy and so have I” as the song continues to describe the frustration that befits its title. “I am sure, I am sure I was better before/Are you sure, are you sure, you were better before?”

The lyrics accurately convey the emotions that accompany the song’s subject—it is definitely a song you can sing out loud.

“Pills” switches gears from the previous track; it still retains the band’s overall musical style, however, while the lyrics again reflect the track’s title. While the theme of “Pills” might seem a little familiar, this song discusses the reality of these pills, what they provide and what they mean for the people who take them.

This sense of reality can be seen through the lyrics, “I take my pills they keep me sane/Well they can save me from dying but they don’t save me from shame” and “But with those pills/He’s found his way.” O’Donnell’s voice is slightly sweeter here, but with the same inflection heard in the entire album.

“Swollen” takes on a different tempo from the previous tracks. There is more of an alternative rock influence that can be heard in “Swollen,” such as with the line, “I’m swollen from the tip of my spine to the back of my neck/And I know it/But I stand up straight so it won’t reflect.”

The song begins to talk about being “swollen,” perhaps as a reference to preventing the world from seeing your fear, as conveyed in the lyric, “Shielding ears from what is real/I know nothing is absolute so accept the truth.”

This song strikes a deeper chord, however, which is delivered well through its lyrics. “Swollen” allows the listener to understand and to relate to what O’Donnell is crooning about—all without requiring her to spell out the message of the song.

The final song on the album, “Curves and Edges,” is a combination of many different components seen previously throughout the album. The lyrics seem to discuss society and the experiences of going through life.

“If you’re young then you’re pitied/If you’re old you’re ignored,” she sings. O’Donnell speaks about her own experience with this current issue: “I’ve got no curves just edges/In case you didn’t notice.”

The Stress Dolls do an incredible job of taking musical influences from popular genres that aren’t as common today as they were a decade ago. Through EDM influences, the Stress Dolls bring back nostalgic feelings, all the while managing to stay current by rooting themselves in their own unique and distinctive style—one that is sure to stand out.