With Emotional Creature, Beach Bunny bucks the trend of TikTok music vapidity and delivers an impressive, sincere indie rock record.
With Emotional Creature, Beach Bunny’s second full-length record, the group leans heavily into science fiction thematizing and fantasy framing for their particular quarter-life crisis branch of pop-rock. The record reflects a tiptoeing outside the comfortable, simple sounds of their first record and demonstrates a bit of growth, this while still acknowledging the growth that’s still to come. And if the trajectory is to be trusted, this album feels like a stepping stone on the path to what Lili Trifilio has wanted the band to be from the start.
Beach Bunny gained their initial popularity on the backs of a few popular TikTok sounds borrowed from their initial 2018 EP. In true TikTok fashion, this propelled them into the mainstream and established considerable expectations before the group of twenty-somethings had even released an album proper. This greenness was easily discernible on Honeymoon, their first album, which boasted the sounds of a band finding their footing not only sonically, but as new adults encountering a vast world of possibility. But while the pandemic stalled many artists, Trifilio pushed forward, writing the songs that would eventually populate Emotional Creature.
Here, on Beach Bunny’s sophomore release, the easy swagger and confidence of early-20s living and art-making gives some way to life’s natural quarter-life pause. This pivot is articulated through a natural angst to the band’s sound, a sense of the stall that so many experience, but also granted levity in the brightness of the drumming and each energetic riff. There’s still that confident bounce to the band’s step that helps offset the age-specific, fork-in-the-road musings the group trades in here. Lyrically, much of the same ground is covered on Emotional Creature that was approached on Honeymoon, with Trifilio dealing in the familiar indie mode of songwriting: heart on her sleeve confessions of shame, joy, love, and everything in between. In a way, the album plays as a type of therapeutic exercise — or else self-pep talk — as if Trifilio is conversing with herself while occupying her childhood bedroom. It lends the record a cathartic, healing texture, with the sense of relief that comes through in such songwriting something of a balm for listeners. There are also the aforementioned sci-fi flourishes — most overtly communicated via the album’s visual accompaniments (album cover, tour poster, inserts, etc.) — which add another layer of personality to the proceedings: the idea of entering “alien” new worlds, both personally and artistically, or themselves being aliens in these worlds lends not just a thematic link-up, but injects a little more playfulness into what could have been a somber affair. And none of this is hurt by the fact that this is also undeniably more polished than anything Beach Bunny has accomplished up until this point.
Perhaps most impressive, however, is that Beach Bunny offers proof that Internet-famous music — not to be confused with Internet music — doesn’t have to be vapid. Sincerity is the special sauce of Lily Trifilio and her band — fitting given that they first found fame via a social media platform with a song about the singer’s struggles with anxiety and mental health — and this latest record features both ripping highs and moving emotional lows, as well as a profound curiosity for wondering what comes next. For many, this intimate, experiential foundation will be relatable; if it isn’t — or isn’t of interest — much of the album may fall flat. But with a carefully calibrated approach to emotional interrogation and an expert modulation of tone and lyrical content on Emotional Creature, Beach Bunny delivers a worthy entry into their already exciting early catalog and solidifies themselves as one of the best indie bands to land in a minute.
Published as part of Album Roundup — July 2022 | Part 1.