Tag Archives: Bully

August 18, 2017 — “I am a Chicken” by Mourn


If you only listen to one song today, make it “I am a Chicken” by Mourn (2016, from the album Ha, Ha, He.).

Mourn is an indie rock quartet from Barcelona. The band of teenagers formed in 2014 and they released their eponymous debut later that year. Last year, they released their sophomore album Ha, Ha, He. via Captured Tracks in this country. I remember that I had the album on my radar last year, simply because of their affiliation with Captured Tracks, but I didn’t know anything about the band. I still know very little about them. Then, I saw them on this year’s Hopscotch Music Festival lineup, and when I started doing my Hopscotch homework, I got excited about it.

They say that they’ve been influenced by the Chicago brand of post rock — bands like Tortoise and The Sea and Cake. They also say that they’ve recently found a new influence in Throwing Muses. Any time a band says that they’re influenced by the Muses, I become very, very interested in them. If I’m honest, I don’t really hear much of a Muses sound in their music. Instead, I’m reminded in a lot of ways of the amazing Tsunami. Specifically, the stuff from the first side of Deep End. In a completely different way, I’m reminded of Bully, whose album Feels Like was my seventh favourite album of 2015, and whose show I was shut out of at Hopscotch 15. Oh, and since I’ve brought it up, Bully has a new record coming out on October 20. This isn’t about Bully, though.

In today’s song, I hear a lot of Tsunami, but Mourn’s sound is much better and their production values much higher than those of Tsunami. For some reason, Tsunami wanted their records to sound really muddy, and that was something that always disappointed me very much; they were an incredible band to see live, but their intentionally poor production values make listening to the records much less fun. This isn’t about Tsunami, either. This is about “I am a Chicken”. This is that song:

“I Am a Chicken” by Mourn

Speaking of disappointment, I really like the repeated line “Sorry to disappoint you”. And the layered vocals. Those are my two favourite bits about the song. There’s a really abrupt ending, and it’s not exactly because it segues into the next song on the album. It only sort of segues into the next song. It’s just the way it is.

Tonight’s song is a bit on the short side, and in fact, the entire album clocks in at a very tidy 26:05. Punk rawk.

You can buy Ha, Ha, He. as a download via Bandcamp here, or in physical formats via Captured Tracks here

Mourn is playing on the Friday night of Hopscotch, the second night of the festival. For the first time, the fest will run for four nights. They have the 11:00 slot at CAM, which is a long hike from the rest of the festival footprint, but there’s a lot of great stuff going on at CAM this fest. I don’t have a scheduling conflict in that slot, so it’s a safe bet that I’ll be there.

The Hopscotch Music Festival is in just three weeks. Check out the lineup, the schedule, and the ticket options. As usual, I’ll be there all weekend.

Our favorite albums of 2015 (part 9)

Today, we’ll continue the countdown of my favorite albums of 2015. It was a ridiculously good year for new releases, and before I could even start the countdown, I named 25 honorable mentions. So far, we’ve counted down from 50 to 11, and today we’ll go from 10 down to 6.

Just to recap, the list of honorable mentions is here.

So far, the list from 50 down to 11 looks like so:
50)Lower Dens — Escape From Evil
49)Girl Band — Holding Hands With Jamie
48)Creepoid — Cemetery Highrise Slum
47)Thayer Sarrano — Shaky
46)Rachel Grimes — The Clearing
45)Stolen Jars — Kept
44)Hey Anna — Run Koko
43)Speedy Ortiz — Foil Deer
42)Marriages — Salome
41)Haiku Salut — Etch and Etch Deep
40)The Harrow — Silhouettes
39)Casket Girls — The Piano Album
38)Spectres — Dying
37)Eternal Summers — Gold and Stone
36)Esmerine — Lost Voices
35)Diverting Duo — Desire
34)Viet Cong — Viet Cong
33)astrobrite — Deluxer
32)Noveller — Fantastic Planet
31)Godspeed You! Black Emperor — Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress
30)Long Beard — Sleepwalker
29)Hamsas XIII — Encompass
28)Westkust — Last Forever
27)Hop Along — Painted Shut
26)Lanterns On The Lake — Beings
25)Violent Mae — Kid
24)The Black Ryder — The Door Behind The Door
23)Moon King — Secret Life
22)The Soft Moon — Deeper
21)Trementina — Almost Reach the Sun
20)Beach House — Thank Your Lucky Stars
19)No Joy — More Faithful
18)Torres — Sprinter
17)Mount Eerie — Sauna
16)Shana Falana — Set Your Lightning Fire Free
15)Eskimeaux — O.K.
14)Ringo Deathstarr — Pure Mood
13)Pinkshinyultrablast — Everything Else Matters
12)SOAK — Before We Forgot How To Dream
11)Thrushes — Exposing Seas

As the countdown continues, remember to click on album art to go to where you can buy that album.

A Place to Bury Strangers — Transfixiation

10)A Place To Bury Strangers — Transfixiation
This is the fourth album from the Brooklyn noise rock/shoegaze/post-punk quartet who are often called “New York’s loudest band”. Indeed. When you see them live, you’ll need to reboot after the show. Maybe drive home in silence. Even when you listen to APTBS records, you’ll need a sensory break afterwards. This record is certainly no different. As the story goes, even the band themselves had to take a brief hiatus during the recording of this album. Yes, this is about noise and gadgetry. Yes, this is pitch dark. Yes, this is really difficult for a lot of people to digest. This is music that most people hate. The album has gotten mostly lukewarm or even unfavorable reviews, but Oliver Ackerman et al aren’t making music for Pitchfork’s benefit. They know who their fans are, and they know that Ian Cohen isn’t one of them.
If you’re not afraid of some noise and some darkness and some misery, this is a beautiful album that you will definitely need a break from after you’ve listened.

Briana Marela — All Around Us

9)Briana Marela — All Around Us
This is the third album by the Seattle experimental ambient pop singer/songwriter. Her first two albums were self-released, but she joined the Jagjaguwar family for this album. In a separate development, she joined forces with Alex Somers, who has produced records for Sigur Rós. So she’s got better production, she’s got label support, and she had a significant tour to support the new album, which came out on August 21. Because of her sweet voice of an angel-child, she’s compared to the late Trish Keenan out of Broadcast, and to Jessie Stein out of The Luyas. As much as I like both of those bands and both of those singers, I like this even more. Again, this was an album that wasn’t really all that well-received by critics, but I love it.

Beach House — Depression Cherry

8)Beach House — Depression Cherry
This is the fifth album from the Baltimore dream pop duo and the first of two albums they released in 2015. The songs from Depression Cherry and the songs from Thank Your Lucky Stars were recorded during the same sessions, but they promise that they aren’t companion albums and that Thank Your Lucky Stars isn’t a “b-side album”. They swear that Thank Your Lucky Stars isn’t the Amnesiac to Depression Cherry‘s Kid A, but despite their protestations, fans and critics will always refer to the two 2015 albums as companion albums or sister albums or whatever. I love this band, and I think that they can do no wrong. You’ll remember seeing Thank Your Lucky Stars at 20 on the countdown. I obviously like this one a little more.

Bully — Feels Like

7)Bully — Feels Like
This is the debut album by the Nashville post-grunge quartet. There’s a lot of reasons to like this band, and most of it has to do with frontwoman Alicia Bognanno. Her story, her charisma, her badass-ness. However, I always like to point out that the drummer in this band is named Stewart Copeland. A drummer named Stewart Copeland, but not that drummer named Stewart Copeland. As far as I know, that’s his real name. Aside from all the personal backstories, this is just a really good band who put out a remarkable debut. Bognanno won’t be able to do the things that she’s doing to her voice for very long (just ask Bob Mould), but for now, it sure is fun to hear her belt this shit out.
The band came to Hopscotch this year, and I had them very high on my list. Unfortunately, the venue they were in was over capacity, and since nobody was leaving, I wouldn’t have been able to get in even with a VIP band. Incidentally, even my “plan B” for that time slot got foiled for the same reason. They’re coming around next month, and I won’t miss it this time.

93MillionMilesFromTheSun — Fall Into Nothing

6)93MillionMilesFromTheSun — Fall Into Nothing
This is the fourth album by the melodic shoegaze trio from Doncaster, South Yorkshire, England. The album came out in May, but I didn’t get it until a few months later. As much as I liked their earlier stuff, this one really hit me hard. It was all I could listen to for about a month. It’s worth pointing out that they also released an EP of Ride covers this year, and it’s quite good. In a connected way, this album reminds me so much of that period of time when Ride was riding the wave of Nowhere and things were going really well for them. Before Britpop forced them and other UK shoegazers to adapt their sound to whatever it was that NME and Melody Maker would write favorable things about. Before even the label bosses made their shoegaze bands write Britpop stuff. This reminds me of the real Ride.

That’s it for today. Tomorrow, I should finish the countdown, and then do a recap on Thursday.

Recapping Hopscotch 15 Day One

It’s Hopscotch weekend again. My favourite weekend of every year. The only “vacation” that I take every year. It’s filled with tons of good music, a lot of beer, and seeing friends. This year, life is happening to a bunch of the guys who I normally hang out with all weekend long, and none of them were able to make it. This means that I’m flying solo for the weekend. So I’m much less likely to get talked into (or out of) seeing certain bands.

As is usual, I made a “perfect world” list of the bands that I want to see this weekend, and some of them involve scheduling conflicts. Some necessitate leaving sets early or staying put in a venue to ensure that I can get a spot. I did well this Thursday.

I had grand plans to arrive in Raleigh early today and partake of some of the day party stuff. I wasn’t early enough for that, but I was here well before the real festival started.

I started with a couple of fancy beers at Busy Bee while I waited for things to get going. A brief but heavy rain came through, which delayed the first show of the night over at the City Plaza main stage. The doors opened late for Ought/Godspeed. They got started about 20 minutes late, but it didn’t cause any problems.

Tim Beeler Darcy of Ought

Tim Beeler Darcy of Ought

Ought was a substitution for Deerhunter, who canceled a whole slew of late summer shows. The truth is that I wasn’t all that excited about Deerhunter anyway, and before I headed in, I thought that Ought was an upgrade. They played a good, energetic set, and they actually exceeded my expectations. Mostly stuff from the new record, which I’ve been enjoying quite a bit.



Next up in the outdoor City Plaza main stage was Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The Canadian post-rock icons have been going strong for more than 20 years,and they keep putting out great records. I’ve seen them three times before, and on a different blog I wrote very elaborate posts about the time I saw them in Chapel Hill back in 1999, and also the time in 2003 when I drove to Athens, Georgia to see them with a girl I met on the internet. Those are both some pretty crazy stories. If you have a few extra minutes, I invite you to read them. I saw Godspeed again in the autumn of 2012, and it was, as the other two times were, amazing.
Since Ought started late, Godspeed also started late. Not long after they started, another rainstorm rolled in. They had to move a bunch of their gear from the front of the stage further back, and that caused a small delay. They sounded good, but I was short on time, and I had to leave after they’d been on stage for only about 45 minutes.



I stopped on my way out of the Plaza and got something to eat and made it over to King’s just in time for Wildhoney. Their album is locked into a year-end top five position at my house, and they were one of my highest priorities for the weekend. When I arrived, King’s was packed, but the crowd started to thin out, and I got a great spot. The band scorched their way through an incredible 25-minute set, taking no prisoners. They played well, and they owned the stage with their bouncy energy. As happy as I was to see them, I was a bit disappointed when they said goodnight at 10:25. Disappointed and confused. And it left me with a bunch of extra time on my hands, and I didn’t have anything circled until the Mamiffer set at 11:30. I had a bit of serendipity though, when I headed on over to Kennedy early.


Alexandra Drewchin (Eartheater)

I arrived there at about 10:50 during what was supposed to be a set by John Chantler. He wasn’t on my radar at all, but when I got there, it was obvious that the person on stage wasn’t John Chantler. He had a travel visa issue, and was replaced by New York experimental/synth-dream pop artist Eartheater. I still don’t know anything about her, and it wasn’t until her set was over that I even learned who she was. I loved her set, but I was confused the whole time. That was the bit of serendipity.



Next up was Mamiffer. This was one that I was really looking forward to, and there was no disappointment there. It was much louder than I thought it would be. Not super-noisy, but the sound was really deep. The kind of low-end loud that makes the whole room vibrate, and you feel it in your teeth and bones. Although I had high expectations, I liked it even more than I thought I would. And now I’m much more keen on taking in their day party set Friday afternoon at King’s. There’s a bunch of cool stuff going on at King’s, as there always is.

I ditched the initial plan, which was to see 25 minutes of Mamiffer and leave early so I could see 15 minutes of Jenny Hval. I was enjoying it so much, I stayed for almost the entire Mamiffer set. I left just a little bit early because I wanted to give myself time to get to Bully. That was another one that was a very high priority for me, and since the venue is small and narrow, I wanted to get there early. It didn’t matter. I was there early, but the venue was at capacity. One in-one out. The VIP line was about 12 deep, and the “regular person” line was about 20 deep, but it wasn’t moving at all. It wasn’t going to happen with or without a VIP wristband.

Battles drummer John Stanier

Battles drummer John Stanier

With great disappointment, I moved on to plan B, which was to see Battles at Lincoln. My friend Bill, who couldn’t make it this year, had been urging me to see Battles instead of Bully anyway. Lincoln was also at capacity, but the line moved quickly, and I was inside before their set started. I’m not a Battles fan, but my friend Bill is a huge fan, so I was really there for his sake, and to satisfy my curiosity about their drummer. John Stanier played drums for Helmet from 1989 to 1998. His trademark is that when he plays with Battles, his ride cymbal is about 6 feet off the ground. I didn’t believe it when I heard about it, but it’s really something to watch him play that kit. Unfortunately, about three or four songs in, I started to feel weak and a little light-headed. Instead of trying to fight through it like I did two years ago during Spiritualized, I heeded my body’s warning signals, and I got out of there, got some food, got some Gatorade from my car, and called it a night.

It was a long day and a very good day. I’m upset that I didn’t get to see Bully, and I was disappointed that the Wildhoney set was so short, but a couple of sets surpassed my expectation of them, and Eartheater was a surprise that came out of nowhere. Today will be full of day party action, but the night schedule isn’t as packed for me as it was last night.

At the end of the day, my favorite thing so far has been Mamiffer.

06.24.2015 — “Trying” by Bully


If you only listen to one song today, make it “Trying” by Bully (2015, from the album Feels Like).

Bully is a post-grunge/90s alt-rock revival quartet from Nashville. The band is led by Alicia Bognanno, who took an unusual path to being in a promising young band. She grew up in Minnesota, and as a high school student, she ended up taking some elective courses in sound engineering. For some reason, those classes were taught at the town’s zoo. I picture a ridiculous scenario where a bunch of puffins wander through the studio during class. After learning the basics of engineering, she learned piano, then later, guitar. Most of her interest, though, was in production, and used her new skills to help make loops and things like that for her hip-hop loving friends. Her teacher influenced her to go to Middle Tennessee State University, which has a highly reputable audio engineering program. She got her degree, then got an internship in Chicago at Steve Albini’s studio. She returned to Tennessee, started working the sound board at a Nashville venue, and started Bully as a solo project. She was joined by Clayton Parker (guitar), Reece Lazarus (bass) and Stewart Copeland (drums). No, not that Stewart Copeland. But seriously, the drummer’s name is Stewart Copeland.

The band is influenced by things like Dinosaur Jr, Liz Phair, Pixies, The Breeders, Pavement, Superchunk, and other bands who thrived in the world of early 1990s indie rock. Some people even say that Bognanno’s sweet-n-sour voice, which can sometimes be sandpapery, reminds them of Kurt Cobain’s howl. I’m not sure that I’d go all the way there, but I think it is fair to say that other things about Bully are a bit Nirvana-esque.

Bully put out an EP last year, and their debut album Feels Like came out yesterday. It’s one of the most talked about debut records this year, and it’s one that I expect to fair well in my year-end list.

Bully is also one of the 140 or so bands who will be playing at this year’s Hopscotch Music Festival in September. They’re playing Thursday night, the first night of the festival. It’s already looking like it’s going to be impossible to manage that night. See the lineup here.

Although I didn’t know anything about them, Bully was on my Hopscotch radar, and I’ve been anticipating the new album. I got a review copy of it, and after just two listens, I’m surprised by how much this album has exceeded my high expectations.

Right now,this is my favorite song on the album.

“Trying” by Bully

In the first 45 seconds of the song, we get the “sweet” side of Bognanno’s voice, and a bass solo that was undoubtedly inspired by Kim Deal’s iconic line in “Gigantic”. Then, in the chorus, her voice is gritty and big. In the music, there’s also a bit of that loud/quiet/loud thing that the Pixies did so well.

In the weeks leading up to the release of Feels Like, they did a pre-sale on a limited pressing of vinyl. There was a small run of red and a small run of blue. Both sold out. You can purchase a CD, vinyl, or a digital download via Amazon here.

For extra credit, and a lot of fun, here’s the official video for the song. Note that Bognanno plays guitar right-handed, but plays skee ball left-handed.

Look for Bully when they come through your town, and if you’re close enough, start planning your Hopscotch weekend. It’s September 10-12. Go here for all of the ticketing details. Single day wristbands go on sale today, but you really want to get the whole festival.

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