by Kara Kokinos
[three_fourth]Losing’s album cover features what I assume is front-woman Alicia Bognanno in a fort of sheets, hair covering her face, legs tucked into herself. This is not a place of comfort; if anything, it’s more an exploration of the discomfort that comes with hiding within the familiar. It’s an important distinction when diving into this album. If you’re looking to avoid intense emotions, this is not the place for you. There’s a lot of anger in the new Bully release, Losing, and damn, does it feel good. This album is cutting, to say the least. Bognanno’s attempts to construct life post break-up resonate deeply with anyone who has been caught between emotionally fueled impulse and self-protecting calculation. It’s a tribute to the special blend of anxiety and depression that pairs so well with break ups. Bognanno doesn’t spare any punches with her lyricism or vocals, which often fall somewhere between whisper and exorcism.
Bognanno, who writes and produces Bully’s material, opts for a pretty sparse instrumental track on Losing, usually with absolutely no more than a single tracked drumline, a main bass or guitar line, and a guitar providing accents at any single point. Even when they’re not there, your brain fills in a lot of the lines that flow in and out of the mix. The really delicious parts of songs are reserved for vocal lines – the climaxes of her songs can feature three or more of Bognanno in harmony. It’s a fantastic utilization and, very often, allows for a separation of registers that is accentuated by all of the fantastic crunchiness of the vocal lines. Throw in her constantly fluctuating vocal tone, which is somehow equally soft and gritty, and you have a formula to build a solid album upon.
There’s no denying the lyrical and vocal mastery on this album, every song contains a soul crushing amount of self-realization, from singular lines like “I try and be respectful, it kills to be resistant” and “trying to cut down on booze and you,” to song structure emphasizing meaning, as demonstrated on ‘Feel the Same.’ There’s a quality to this album that feels a bit like yelling into the void – the vocal tracks have a snarl that’s in direct contrast to the steady pulse of the instrumentals. It gives the album a consistent sonic theme and driving force, propelled mostly by Bognanno’s vocals. Sometimes this means stagnation but ‘Guess There’ is the only track this songwriting technique falls exceptionally flat on.
This album is not designed for our comfort though; it’s a message pounded into us during the outro, asking, “Can we just exist without your hate and control?” While it’s not exactly clear who the accusation turned dare is meant for, I will happily choose to join Bognanno in her manic rage over the alternative.