The length of time it took from Bull’s formation to only now releasing a debut studio album is massively respectable, having stayed together for so long and having very little physical material to show for their years as a band. However, a nine year wait for this album has certainly manifested itself into Bull’s sound, being instantly recognisable as their work. Their brand new, debut studio album: Discover Effortless Living is the alt-indie album of 2021.
Upon the first listen of the album, it sounds like it would fit perfectly into the time when the UK Indie scene was at its peak: a second Peace album, Superfood hitting their stride, and the rising of bands like Swim Deep and The Magic Gang. Bull would’ve given competition in the charts and on festival line-ups if Discover Effortless Living was released around this time. Having this mid-10s alt-indie pop sound aligns perfectly with the time they were writing the songs on this album – although the process of recording and producing did not begin until 2018. With the release of Discover Effortless Living being on the Friday before ‘British Summer Time’ begins, its release is timed to perfection.
Whilst listening, there were two (maybe three) layers that give Bull such a fresh, well-executed sonic. One of those elements is their playful nature in their musical progression – Serious Baby, Shiny Bowl, Eugene and Eddie’s Cap are the tracks that demonstrate this best. Bull have managed (particularly with Serious Baby) to write and produce songs that never have a dull or silent moment; this makes the first listen of every track exciting, as there is so much anticipation in their complex composition. There are not only twists and jumps in melodies, but also guitars, drums, bass and the countless miscellaneous synth and percussive soundbites thrown in everywhere. Like Serious Baby, Shiny Bowl has this non-linear element in its song structure, which, as a result, binds itself (along with Dan on lead guitar) to this alt-indie-math-rock style.
Contrary to Bull never possessing a silent moment, there are key changes in Shiny Bowl and Eugene that throw the entire track in a different direction, but some of these are mellow for Bull. There are elements that shouldn’t be included and shouldn’t work, particularly these swift changes, but the whole element of Bull’s sound ties in with their visual look and artwork, Discover Effortless Living – a perceptive, in-depth piece of work.
Eddie’s Cap is the song of the album; it bridges the element of their composition, plus the other defining element that Bull have created (with help from Remco, their producer-friend who helped record and produce Discover Effortless Living). Having worked on this album for two-plus years, every spec of the album has undoubtably come under intense scrutiny, and from that, Bull’s playfulness in elements that are borderline non-musical certify their crazy-happy nature as a band, and as musicians. Using these miscellaneous elements in-line with the effects gives a visual image that works perfectly with their album (and single) artwork. This layer of sounds that shouldn’t work – guitar (and vocal) screeches and outbursts further enforces this chaotic nature that Bull possess in their artwork, music and personalities; this album is about life, their lives, and their personalities, and how situations are dealt with.
All other songs on the album can be categorised into these two elements. The singles of Love Goo, Green, Bonzo Please, and Disco Living are honed back from the elements previously described. Their chaos is mediocre, their structure is simple and smooth, but the happiness that can be heard in these songs is so poignant and strong. Green in particular feels like it is sparkling in your ears – as mentioned before, every little detail of the song has been thought about, and how the layering of instruments can be composed and produced to be musically solid and dynamic in its production.
Find Myself A Job, Smoke, Bedroom Floor and Perfect Teeth are even further honed back, but still keep all these elements in the context of the song and how it is perceived. Perception of situations and times is a running theme on Discover Effortless Living. As the album (made obvious by its title) is defined by life and living, Bull have taken situations of (for example) self-hatred and spun a humorous, self-critical narrative into the lyrics. Bedroom Floor: ‘go outside and have some fun’ and Perfect Teeth: ‘through my male-gaze’ both highlight how alternative experiences can be percieved whilst being self-critical of their situation(s). In In A Jar, Tom B explicitly laughs whilst singing. He also criticises this self-reflection of looking into a Shiny Bowl and the visual and implicit image he does not like seeing in that bowl. Nothing musically, lyrical or anything in between is taken too seriously throughout the album, and through that, the lucidity of structure has transposed itself into their musicianship to be ‘effortless’ in a sense.
Bull’s debut album, Discover Effortless Living is an album that oozes happiness left, right and centre. So much care has been taken with every track and every spec of every song. The catchiness of the melodies, the simplicity of the drums partnered with a bass that carries tempo and happiness of each song is all centered around a lead guitar that polishes off and certifies the sound of summer; this is the album for the summer of 2021. Although the instrumentation is so upbeat, the source of this glistening, sun-shining, cider-drinking tone comes from all the frills and the short aftermath of every pluck of Dan’s guitar. It’s clear that Bull and Remco took full advantage of the two-year-plus period to record and produce this album as a unit. Every little decision made, from the way Discover Effortless Living is written, recorded and produced is pure perfection. Although the journey of making this album appears ironic against the album title with its timescale, their final product is seamless.
You can listen to Discover Effortless Living here.
Featured Image: Amy D’Agorne