NPR logo Review: Bully, 'Feels Like'

Review: Bully, 'Feels Like'

Album cover
Album cover

Alicia Bognanno isn't one for wasted motion: The indefatigable lead singer of Nashville's Bully crafts her songs for maximum impact in minimal time, taking care never to overstay her welcome or overdress her arrangements. Feels Like, the Nashville band's effervescent debut, speeds by in about half an hour, having left behind a trail of two- and three-minute songs that stick in the brain for ages.

Still, though it's easy to fixate on the skill and charm with which Bully's songs channel the harder-edged sounds of early-'90s college radio, this isn't just a collection of confections or simple throwbacks. Bognanno laces her writing with playful turns of phrase and, at times, self-doubt that stings: "I question everything," she sings in "Trying," adding, "My focus, my figure, my sexuality." It would have been easy to fill these grungy speedball jams with nonsense words or simple sloganeering, but Bognanno knows when to dig under the skin and fish around.

Sweet and fizzy, barbed and aggressive, Feels Like benefits from its sublime simplicity — from all the hooks and riffs and snarls at its surface — while smartly undercutting it at the right times. These are speeding-with-the-windows-down songs, but they also feel true to the life of the charismatic ball of nerves at their core.

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