Bully’s debut album, Feels Like, is equal parts screaming, originating from the depths of lead vocalist, Alicia Bognanno’s soul and penetrating electric guitar riffs. The foursome released ten tracks, three of which come from their self-titled EP, in June of this year. Feels Like makes the seamless transition from idle summer days to darker autumnal vibes, with tracks like “Too Tough” and “Sharktooth,” the bonus track, bridging that gap.
Right before the release I had the pleasure of stepping on a stranger’s Vans while rows away from center stage during their eight-song set at the Northside Festival in Brooklyn. The group played with a remarkably intense conviction on that early summer day; one that certainly carried over to Feels Like.
In the months since the release there have been many comparisons between Bognanno and the likes of Kurt Cobain and other gritty voices of music scenes past. What distinguishes her then, especially in this pivotal first effort is her unapologetically honest, autobiographical lyrics.
“Trying” has asserted itself as a track to be played in the background during your most triumphant moments. While at its base it rests on self-doubt and vulnerable moments: “Been praying for my period all week/And relief I just can’t see/I question everything/My focus, my figure, my sexuality,” it suggests that in the center of personal crises is sometimes exactly where you need to be. Her catharsis becomes that for the listener as well, in any moment when life just Feels Like (fill in the blank). The critical reception has corresponded to the power of the song, making it their hit of the moment.
Bognanno’s angst is undeniable. In the same vein, nostalgia for a grungier time (think: ‘90s) is palpable. Despite these ever-present influences, Bully does well to make their message and sound remain relevant to these modern times. Their versatility between easy verses and raw, raspy choruses is another box to be checked when going through their sheer technical skill. This back-and-forth delivers some jolts to the listener, but ultimately is just another gold star for the band. It appears that the Nashville rockers are on their way to solidifying a name for themselves.