Album Reviews: Bully, Bright Eyes, L.A. Witch
Bully — Sugaregg (Nashville)
Whether it's catch tunes with a grungy finish or emotional devastation coated in distortion, Bully's music has always felt impactful. This time around Alicia Bognanno's writing manages to deliver this sense of meaning on both fronts for a record that's constantly teetering between fun and dense walls of body-moving noise. The rollicking rush of "Add It On" is sheer fury, and Bognanno is able to ride this for exhilarating highs in the vocals, as well as some truly brutal growls. This control in the shriek of the record gives al the endless hooks of "Where to Start" the same weight as Bognanno's own signature rasp, so that every chorus has a sense of depth to its sound. Alternatively it's wall-to-wall sound on "Like Fire" which makes the more beat-driven approach so wonderfully strange, and the fat sound of the tones so intriguing for the band. While "Stuck in Your Head" brings it back to the explosive speed of other Bully songs, the dissonant riffs, layered vocals and warped effects really bring out a sense of experimental fun to elevate the two-minute punk track into something fiery.
LeFlofranco & DJ Chevdot — C'est Pas Ma Faute (Ottawa)
Grimy and smoky, there's an overt dirtiness to LeFlofranco's style on his latest single that's fun to listen to. Shameless in the layers of hungry flirting in the lyrics and delivery, LeFlofranco doesn't hold anything back here. The club-like beats are instantly seductive themselves, while feeling just beyond those that you've heard before. It's one of those songs that's so over-the-top that it works whether you're into the style or find it cheesy, because it's pushed all the way. Needless to say, there's constantly an entertaining gem in every second of "C'est Pas Ma Faute."
Bright Eyes — Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was (Omaha, Nebraska)
A decade away can do a lot for a band's sound, and for Bright Eyes it seems to have allowed a lot more creative freedom. Landing between sound-scapes and orchestral folk-pop, the group feel perfectly back at home. This production finesse allows the heart of "Dance and Sing" to feel sublime, while every other inch of arrangements seem to drift between magical and just outside of describable. Bright Eyes drift to more lo-fi neon on "Pan and Broom," that sheds a wider scope of production for unpredictable direction. The more simplified pop of "Tilt-A-Whirl" is a focused and fantastical display of the group's prowess, as every melody seems enhanced to a pure whimsical moment that you'll want to sing along to immediately. This makes it no surprise as they leap into the ether in the bridges of "Forced Convalescence" like they've visited the grandiose mystique of it millions of times before.
Avi Kaplan — Lean On Me (Visalia, California)
A sparse but heavy folk sound lets Avi Kaplan use every voice at his disposal like a massive paintbrush. This lets his guitar and various vocals on "It Knows Me" all feel like mountains in the song's production, where even a whistle comes off with gusto. The downbeat chug of "Chains" focuses in a little more to highlight a more reserved emotion, as Kaplan doesn't appear to try to make everything feel so spectacular. The rustling low-end of "Aberdeen" is unforgettable, and elevates the already welcoming harmonies to a more enchanted quality. And while the more sullen approach to "Lean on Me" might not be for everyone, the lift it's able to muster in its choruses stays true to the song's core.
L.A. Witch — Play With Fire (Los Angeles)
Getting that simple-but-effective rock album right is a fine art, and L.A. Witch finally seem to have cracked the code on their latest album. Sharp songs and the right blend of grit and fun leave you with an album that is just sublime to listen to. "Fire Starter" drenches its dark surf-rock energy in enough muddy effects to really bring you to another world, while the band jams out effortlessly. The group's finesse for familiar-yet-exciting rock sees "I Wanna Lose" gliding with a murky charm, as it dazzles you in riff-rock fun and constantly feels like it's being pulled from a more sinister depth. A desert haze settles in a lo-fi synth attack on "Maybe the Weather" as the group deliver a mood-piece that shows more sides to their sound. Plus their classic sound is taken to a fun and often galactic height on "Starred" where they round things out on an all-out instrumental shredder.