The Lowdown: Beach Bunny have often been regarded as Liz Phair-like, quintessential “sad-girl” music, and, more recently, a Tik-Tok phenomenon. Yet, none of these comparisons really do them justice. On the Chicago-based outfit’s 2018 EP, Prom Queen, lead singer and songwriter Lili Trifilio wrestles with anxieties of unfair beauty standards and the inevitability of growing up. Yet, the quartet’s debut album, Honeymoon, is more streamlined. The album is a requiem for a dream. It’s a reckoning of an idealistic vision where the sparks that once ignited a relationship can eternally maintain their flame. It’s a submission into a reality where love is complicated, terrifying, and unstable. But at the same time, it’s a jump off a cliff, a plunge into the unknown. If you take the risk, Trifilio suggests that you might end up on “Cloud 9”. On their first album from Mom + Pop, the band doesn’t feel like Liz Phair, Snail Mail, or any of the other lazy comparisons often given to them. They simply feel like Beach Bunny.
The Good: In an interview for the album, Trifilio detailed that you can listen to Honeymoon “from the top to the bottom for a happy story or in reverse for a bleaker narrative.” Following her guide, Honeymoon reels you in with an already divisive track in “Promises”. Trifilio is plagued by the memory of a past relationship, often coming to her “like a reoccurring dream” or a nightmare. At first, we’re invited into a bedroom with gentle, twinkled rifts and a singular hi-hat that holds broken “promises.” Soon, the tempo speeds up into a chanty, declarative chorus that’s pretty traditional for Beach Bunny (“Part of me still wants you/ Part of me wants to fall asleep/ Part of me still hates you). There is an apprehension to move out of the dream or, perhaps, a greater need to share it with the one who caused it. The bridge then swells with expectation until it’s too bloated and spills over with Trifilio’s repeated pleas to “think of me.”
As predicted, the final track ties a neat bow around the “happy story” as Trifilio finally finds herself on “Cloud 9”. With lower-mixed guitars highlighting a pounding drumbeat and a bridge full of a silvery bass line and residual applause, Trifilio’s thoughts begin to feel steady again. She acknowledges her rocky history — the dreams and nightmares — but at the end of the day, her partner will “always be [her] favorite form of loving.”
But it isn’t an easy road to get to “Cloud 9”. Trifilio treks over a more distorted, 1975-type grunge-pop riff, worried she’s “getting too close” on “Cuffing Season” (“Sometimes I like being on my own/ I’m afraid of winding up alone). On the sunny surf-rock tune “April”, Trifilio flounders in the oppressive daydream, constantly “wishing you were here.” It isn’t until the emotional crescendo of “Rearview” that Trifilio exits the guised memory of her past relationship: “You loved me/ I loved you/ You don’t love me anymore, I still do.”
The Bad: The throughline of exiting and entering the honeymoon stage overall works in the band’s favor. The song’s seamlessly string together, building upon one another to execute the general feeling of moving from fearing to fearless. Yet, sonically, there is little deviation from Beach Bunny’s tried-and-true formula of a slow-building verse to a shouted chorus. Few songs delineate from the pocket that the band seem all too comfortable in. The most obvious distinction is “Racetrack”, a gossamer lullaby where the fragile notes seem to float around Triflio’s gentle realization that she “always winds up in second place.”
The Verdict: It’s much safer to live in your own bubble — impervious, unaffected by outside elements that threaten to puncture the parameters of solitude. In this space, we can shield ourselves from uncertainty. But oftentimes, we still end up alone. On Honeymoon, Trifilio finally invites someone into her bubble, into her dream. With a ceaseless, buoyant energy that swims across a candid narrative, Trifilio flexes her masterful songwriting on an album bound to win the hearts of emo-punks and TikTok girls alike.
Essential Tracks: “Promises”, “April”, and “Colorblind”