While Bully’s 2013 debut Feels Like tumbled headlong into the precarious nature of Alicia Bognanno’s young adult life, its follow-up Losing is their first for Sub Pop (which in many ways feels like their spiritual home; Bully’s sound is an outgrowth of the bands the label championed in the late ‘80s and ‘90s). Losing is a document of the complexity of growth: navigating breakups with sensitivity, learning not to flee from your troubles but to face them down no matter how messy they may be (“Well, this isn’t the summer I wanted,” she muses on “Blame,” before admitting that she’s trying to “cut down on booze and you”). Written as the group slowed down from touring constantly and Bognanno attempted to adjust to how different a home schedule is from a road schedule, her songwriting has matured from the quick one-two punches of Feels Like to tracks that contemplate the necessity of space in both song structure and emotion.
Bognanno’s gruff yet dynamic voice is allowed to bloom, and it has a tenderness and openness to it here that’s new. There are multiple layers of wistfulness and care to her delivery of lines like “It just takes one disagreement for you to remember the one time I fucked up,” from “Spiral,” turning songs that could be one-dimensional kiss-offs into warm and complex expressions of regret.