Bully Finds Softness in the Feedback on 'Lucky for You'

BY Kate ShepherdPublished Jun 1, 2023

Over the course of three albums, Alicia Bognanno has proven her talent for crafting hooky, driving melodies that amplify, rather than mask, the personal themes at their core. Lucky for YouBully's fourth album, and second as a solo act — builds on the propulsive energy of 2020's Sugaregg, further refining her mix of pop buoyancy and grungy riffs, and distilling them into a collection of tracks that expertly balances bristling frisson with a disarming lyrical vulnerability. The result is a catchy, cathartic experience that feels fun, even while wading through themes of loss, shame and eventually acceptance.

Inspired in part by the passing of her beloved dog, Mezzi, the album offers a candid examination of the monotony of grief and the transience of joy that feels at once intimate and universal, retaining the anthemic qualities of her previous offerings while expanding her sonic palette further. 

That's no small feat; an alumna of Steve Albini's Electrical Audio, Bognanno has always been able to achieve a high-impact sound to complement the piercing howl that's earned her comparisons to Courtney Love. But while vocal grit may be a calling card, on Lucky for You, she oscillates between that and a breathier timbre, invoking both distorted garage rock and gauzy shoegaze, and tightly weaving influences and styles in a way that feels effortless.

Lyrically, the album is a study in contrasts as well. On opening track "All I Do, "Bognanno seems unsure whether to look to the past with regret or fondness. "I wanna feel the way I used to," she rasps, only to admit on the following track, the animated "Days Move Slow," that "Something's gotta change." On "Hard to Love," an impulse to reject closeness feels like a defiant method of self-preservation. By the time she joins forces with fellow Nashville resident Soccer Mommy on "Lose You," she seems poised between a desire to grasp for the past and resignation; the sense of inevitability at the centre of the track almost feels like relief.

Although intensely personal, Bognanno's lens also turns outward, and the album is bookended by references to the news (in particular, the bad kind). Whether scrutinizing a psychic with questionable bona fides, or an inescapable news cycle, these references situate her internal frustrations within a culture that exacerbates rather than distracts from the sense of restlessness expressed throughout the rest of the album. To this end, closing track "All This Noise" is a punchy, declarative indictment of America's political landscape, and provides an urgent exclamation point to the album.

Like grief itself, Lucky for You's narrative avoids a linear path to resolution, but it does so without feeling meandering. On the contrary, at its core, the album is a testament to Bognanno's ability to navigate and find meaning in even the most challenging moments, and offers a rousing soundtrack to others doing the same. The result is a confident, compelling record that reveals — and revels in — the softness behind the feedback and fuzz that continue to make Bully a force to be reckoned with. 
(Sub Pop)

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