“I’m not gonna sleep below the glass ceiling,” Jaguar Jonze sings on her debut album, her voice barely a whisper.
Then, moments later, the volume turned right up: “You could’ve destroyed me, but then I got loud.”
This defiance is at the heart of Bunny Mode, an 11-track juggernaut cutting in its specificity. Its title refers to a survival tactic that the artist employed as a survivor of childhood abuse: a freeze response to any safety threats, like a frightened rabbit. The record is a middle finger to oppressors and abusers as the artist – real name Deena Lynch – breaks free of their chokehold, rising anew.
The Brisbane musician, who released two EPs under the Jaguar Jonze moniker in 2020 and 2021, leans into an esoteric sound across Bunny Mode, fortified by the unbridled anger in her lyrics. Sonically and thematically, the record bears similarities to Halsey’s 2021 album If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power – both take cues from industrial music, building unapologetically feminist narratives and rebuttals upon glorious walls of sound. Despite the experimentation and boundary-pushing, it’s all still underpinned by pop and a knack for melody, as on the passionate slow-builder Little Fires, which Lynch performed as part of Eurovision’s Australian decider in February.
While there’s much to like musically – Bunny Mode moves away from the loopy spaghetti western sounds of Lynch’s early work to experiment with darker, heavier sounds, and the singer’s vocal chops are, as always, impressive – the album’s real power is in the lyrical details. It’s another piece of the activism puzzle for Lynch, who has spent much of the last two years fighting for change as a leader in the Australian #MeToo movement, shining a light on misbehavior in the music industry. It also explores the more personal process of healing and recovery following trauma.
These many facets are visible through different threads of the album: on one of the more downbeat tracks, Drawing Lines, Lynch sings silkily of the importance of setting boundaries. The fury is more evident on tracks such as Who Died and Made You King, all angular guitars and punchy electropop beats, as Lynch spits, almost mockingly: “You’re sick and a victim of your disease.” It’s thrilling to hear the tables turned on the powers that be in this way – a reclamation of space, a bold statement of self-sovereignty.
The highlight is Punchline, which turns a sharp eye on tokenism and racism within the entertainment industry. Similarly to Camp Cope’s The Opener, the Taiwanese Australian artist regurgitates box-ticking sentiments from corporate bigwigs to reveal their hollowness: “We love culture but make sure it’s to our very liking / Make it milky, make it plain and not too spicy.” Over wailing guitars and layered vocals, Lynch makes herself in her image, rejecting the condescension of the white-centric industry that still sees artists of color as an exotic other.
Lynch’s cohesive world-building across the album creates a compelling, absorbing, and often intimate listening experience. Her many creative personas – musically as Jaguar Jonze, visually as Spectator Jonze, and photographically as Dusky Jonze – swirl through the record. Still, she emerges as a singularity: a woman who has, despite everything, survived.
After all the noise, rage, fire, and passion, it’s barely a whisper that ends the record again. The instrumentals cut out for Lynch’s controlled vocals to deliver their final, stinging words to the patriarchy and all that enable it: “It’s always been a man-made monster only a woman can destroy.”