Bully- Lucky For You

by | Jun 5, 2023 | Reviews

Bully– Lucky For You (photo by Alysse Gafkjen)


Bully’s 2020 release Sugaregg was raucous; wild; raw. But their brand new fourth studio album Lucky For You, released June 2nd on Sub Pop, is a little mellower; subtler. The band’s mastermind, Alicia Bognanno, still has a lot to say, though—maybe more than she ever has before.


There’s a lot of 90s grunge influence in Bully’s previous album, but this one seems to be a marriage between that and a more 2010s pop sound. The instrumental behind the first track, “All I Do,” is almost Best Coast-y, ethereal and upbeat in a way that you’re almost shocked to hear Bognanno’s (awesome) raspy vocals cut into the indie pop twang. It works, though—not too much dirt nor too clean, it’s a uniquely wonderful concoction.


“Days Move Slow,” the album’s lead single, is a tribute to Bognanno’s dog, Mezzi, who passed away shortly before this song was written. “I was a stranger to the level of love I now know exists because of Mezzi,” Bognanno said when the single was released in March, “Love you forever; I’m lucky for you.” It’s almost universal, that feeling (my friend’s beloved snake, Lemon, just passed the other day), but still impossibly personal. This track takes that cleaner pop vibe up a notch, still garbled and loud but something more melodic and soft about it, some “oohs” in the beginning that remind me of indie pop Canadians Alvvays. Bognanno doesn’t scream here, but you can hear her emotion and you can hear her grief even over that inexplicably upbeat rhythm.


You know when you are thinking too fast, but it’s all about the same thing? The days do move slow, and Bognanno seems stuck in her grief, unable to stop reflecting on it but for fleeting moments: “Sometimes when I zone out at night / I’ll forget you’re outta sight / like living before you were gone.” I know Bognanno’s voice always has that scratch to it, but this time it feels like someone who’s just finished crying. And those definitive chants in the verse (to me they call to mind Courtney Barnett’s “Pedestrian at Best”) almost sound like she’s angry at herself for wallowing in her grief, like if she was a little stronger she could make it go away: “Something’s gotta change, I know!”



My personal favorite track is “Hard to Love.” It’s teasing us, really: it builds and builds, and we expect a big, loud, grungey chorus like in Sugaregg’s “Let You” (among others), but we’re met with silence instead. Which makes it so much more satisfying when that release finally comes: “Hard to Love!” Bognanno belts in that signature rasp. She goes against instinct here, that first chorus even just a little too short, a little too little, so that it keeps us wanting more. It’s impressive, breaking the rules in the way only a master of her craft (with a decade and four albums of practice) can do it. This one’s pretty self-deprecating, too, like Bognanno’s still mad at herself for being the way that she is. But aren’t we all, at ourselves? “I can’t trust anyone,” she sings, “No matter how far they’d run / I’ll find a way to make you lie.”


Bognanno really shows off the masterful control she has over her voice on this release. It’s not always throaty grunge; she can do whatever the hell she wants. That pop vibe sort of grows as you get deeper into the album, with the slow and melodic “A Wonderful Life” (which sports a harmonica! How cool is that?) and the thoughtful, soft “Change Your Mind.” There’s something deeply personal and sometimes shameful in these tunes that simply can’t be screeched: “After all it’s unattractive for me to burden you with shame.” “How Will I Know” is like that, too, and she’s stuck again, thinking too much—this time about her own choices: “Gotta get out of my head / find something else to do / ‘cause there’s no point obsessing over what I would have changed.”


Bully performing

Bully in 2021 (photo by Ray Rusinak)


“A Love Profound” is the most experimental of the tracks, with garbled lo-fi spoken-word, and an off, eerie break in the music. Even the title is a little strange and poetic, romantic (the genre and the era). “I’ve been looking for you everywhere, trying to find you in places I would never think to see,” she speaks in the beginning, and you wonder where it’s going. But Bognanno can put alt-pop vocals over anything and it’ll sound good. Her voice, her lyrics, her skill as a songwriter is just that honed.


Sophie Allison of Soccer Mommy joins in on “Lose You,” and talk about 90s inspo: just call them Nina and Louise, ‘cause this one instantly invoked Veruca Salt for me. The little squeal of feedback and the angry-but-righteous minor chords on the chorus—it’s 90s NEWstalgia, like 90s nostalgia but, y’know, new—not like all the rest, somehow. Maybe that’s what happens when you get two of the coolest names in modern indie rock to do a song together. And Bognanno still can’t stop thinking: “The shades of blue that remind me of you are everywhere.” It really does start to feel like we’re inside her head, and there’s a lot going on in there—I guess that’s where all these songs come from.



“Ms. America” seems tragic in its soft, elegant intimacy. And it is tragic, but this song is political, not intimate: “Ms. America’s been calling / she’s been waiting on the line / wondering how you could respect her and then take her back in time.” This track feels like mourning, like something else has been lost. Once again, Bognanno’s frozen in that despair: “It’s hard when tragedy falls / to watch the world keep moving on.” With the context of ‘America’, you can pick out any one of these lyrics and understand exactly what it means: “If you’re heading towards the dream / what’s another hit and run?” It’s quiet, almost desolate, with no drums—the speaker seems really alone. But she’s not ’cause we’re all feeling the same way, aren’t we?


And of course I positively love “All This Noise.” A full 180 from the track before it in terms of energy, but it’s just the angrier side of that coin. If “Ms. America” was lonely and sad, this one is down. right. FURIOUS. “Ms. America” feels defeated and hopeless, but “All This Noise” is ready to fight. And where “Ms. America” is all dreamy metaphors, this one is literal and bare: “There’s an AR-15 in your house. It’s got one job to do / it’s quickly kill as many things that you want it to!” This track is true punk rock, like the bread on the other side of this album’s sandwich as we swing back into messy, rageful 90s shit. When that chorus hits, I’m ready to bellow “I’m tired of waiting!” along with her from the rooftops. Can this be our anthem for the revolution?


What more can I say? Alicia Bognanno knows what she’s doing: from bright, delicate indie-pop to impassioned, dirty grunge, plus everything in between and also whatever the heck else she wants. Do yourself a favor and give Lucky For You a listen ASAP and catch Bully on their US tour right now.


Lucky For You was released on June 2nd via Sub Pop and is available on Bandcamp and on all major streamers.



Help support independent journalism, donate to FTA