My first introduction to Beach Bunny was on the app TikTok. Frontwoman Lili Trifilio whines her insecurities while the users of the app act out the lyrics, sappily: “Wish I was like you / blue eyed blondie, perfect body… if I get more pretty / do you think he will like me?” On TikTok, music is removed from its particular context, and Beach Bunny gets the short end of the stick. (They’ve gone viral there, but it’s with possibly their worst lyric to date, and with only a fraction of a single song that was only a fraction of a single EP.) This coverage is both a blessing and a curse because I had heard of their new album, but I was only ready to hate it.
There are weaknesses in Beach Bunny’s earlier work, too, such as the song “Painkiller,” which includes overdone metaphors like “all of your apologies were only empty calories.” (But even that one has some surprising freshness in its melodic first lyric: “you’ve been such a jerk.”) At their worst, Beach Bunny sounds like Diet Cig, with lyrics that are distractingly obvious but unironic. (“Does it feel better / to be in an Ivy League sweater?”)
But unlike Diet Cig, Beach Bunny’s music is miles better in context. Even “Prom Queen” is bearable as a whole song, free from the TikTok prison. The new album Honeymoon is full of rich, original melodies and a clean, eminently listenable, desperately vulnerable voice.
“Promises” is a promising start. (Allow me some puns, please, in these trying times). The vocal line could not be fresher or more fun. The best danceable double entendre of the whole album hits right away: “While we were all alone in your bedroom / You came like a reoccurring dream.”
In some ways Beach Bunny’s trajectory reminds me of Clairo, who kicked off with simple singles that disguised her real ability. Clairo’s “Pretty Girl” went viral because there was something catchy and relatable in there, but it also helped her find an audience for whom she could begin crafting her unadulterated grown-up work. Beach Bunny could easily end up doing the same thing.
Already, though, Honeymoon is the type of album that is worthwhile in and of itself. Trifilio’s background vocals in the form of little “woos” (especially on the second track, “Cuffing Season”) are charming to the point of tears. Sometimes an individual lyric on Honeymoon seems a bit superficial (“paranoid permanence is just an empty promise”) but it is always quickly balanced out with a clean, refreshing chorus: “but that’s not love,” Trifilio repeats. Even “April,” which started out as a Christmas song, slides cleanly, especially when she sings the titular line and her voice falls at the end: “I’ve been trying to call you since April / and now it’s October.”
Other highlights: “Ms. California” is the closest to cynical that Beach Bunny could ever get, and lends a touch of 2000s charm to Honeymoon a la “Stacey’s Mom” and “Jesse’s Girl.” Trilifio summons a whole character in a few words: “When you’re gone / she sleeps in your T-shirts.” And “Racetrack,” an interlude-y little lullaby, is a sweet pause in this barreling ode to unhappy sincerity: “even the moon can’t maintain this same phase.”
This is a great album for a rainy day. Every song adds something special: creative piercing guitar riffs on “Colorblind,” the excellent lyrical warning that “easy love is hard to find” on “Dream Boy.” Even weak spots fly by quickly. “Rearview” is messy, and the ending too gauche even for Beach Bunny (“you don’t love me anymore / I still do”), but the sparseness of the melody in the middle adds a new, worthwhile element.
So much of Honeymoon, and indeed Beach Bunny as a whole, relies on Trifilio’s brassy vocals on every single line. Her delivery is unpretentious and perfect. (This means even when the lyrics are halfway-cringeworthy to read on Genius, they are always fun to listen to.)
The final track is a good choice because it represents all of Beach Bunny’s signature elements. “Cloud 9” highlights Trifilio’s darling voice, pushed almost high enough to sound like a desperate strain, just barely in control. The song also recalls Beach Bunny’s older music, maybe to retroactively justify it. Most crucially, the song emphasizes Lili Trifilio’s stubborn earnestness, which is her weakness and her signature.
Mitski often discusses publically how her work is more than diaristic: she works in narrative and fiction, making sure that not everything she writes is from her personal perspective. I get the sense that Beach Bunny is her polar opposite. It is a musical manifestation of Trifilio’s emotions, a collection of output from her specific emotional perspective. But perhaps this is the gentle paradox. It takes craft, still, to make something so earnest and fresh.
And Beach Bunny is determined in their perspective. They’re going to keep throwing things at the wall until something sticks, and on Honeymoon there is a whole lot that sticks. And Trifilio’s emotional territory is changing, too. In January she tweeted “Love honeymoon but I cannot relate to her.” It seems clear that the insecurities that are central to her earlier work and present on Honeymoon are fading.
It is not always everything to be honest, but here, it is more than enough.