Mom + Pop Music
If you’re in a rush, I’ll save you a little time. I’m not going to say anything negative about this record. It’s fantastic, front to back. Go buy it.
If you’re still here, let’s talk about Beach Bunny. Lili Trifilio began recording under the Beach Bunny moniker in 2015, just her and her guitar, making catchy, confessional songs primarily about romance gone awry. She put out two good EPs in 2016 – Animalism and Pool Party – before growing a band, becoming a hot ticket on the Chicago scene, two more EPs (2017’s Crybabyand 2018’s Prom Queen), and a well-received Audiotree Live session. All this led to a big-kid contract with Mom + Pop, and now Beach Bunny have dropped their first full-length, Honeymoon.
I very, very rarely have only unmitigated praise for a record, even one that I love dearly. I think the only one in the past ten years was Tim Fite’s Under the Table Tennis; before that it might be all the way back to Exile in Guyville. There’s been a lot of close-but-not-quite; Feel Your Feelings, Fool! – The Regrettes’ stellar debut – has that one song that sounds like fucking Hole, even HUM’s Downward is Heavenward has a track that’s just that tiny bit sub-par. So it’s not lightly that I say this:
I can’t find a single thing to not like about this album. Honeymoon is better than every pop record that came out in 2019, and possibly everything since 2015. Legit. I think it’s that good.
(Clarity: I’m not comparing Honeymoon to Exile; one is a phenomenal guitar-pop record, the other is a moment-defining landmark)
Catchy doesn’t even begin to describe. In a way I dare you to listen to this record because at least three of these songs are going to be in your head until September, probably longer. This is what indie-pop is supposed to be; heart-on-sleeve, big-chorus, happy-sounding songs about unhappiness (well, not entirely – more on that later) splashed with introspection, witty phrasing, and a couple slower, more obviously melancholy tracks that change up the delivery to stay interesting. Sonically, Honeymoon catches all the right spots. Trifilio and Matt Henkels trade sprightly guitar licks between the refrains; Anthony Vaccaro keeps the bass foundational where it needs to be, fun and funky where he can be looser; Jon Alvarado has figured out the trick so many drummers lack – not just keeping time, but not trying to dominate anything (and his homage to “Lucky Denver Mint” at the front of “Ms. California” is brilliant). Trifilio’s vocal delivery is sometimes a bit girlish, but for me that’s a positive (young music should sound young; these songs wouldn’t work for, say, Juliana Hatfield in her 40s). The production is a major step up from the EPs, being bigger, brighter, and, well, poppier. It’s a good sounding record with a lot of polish on its corners along with some nice little surprises, like the hand claps in “Cloud 9” (you won’t notice them at first, but when you do it’s amazing).
“Promises”, the opener, makes a promise that Honeymoon delivers on – starting moody and ruminating (“Promises and problems were all left unsaid / Buried away at the back of my bed”) before blossoming to big-gesture wall-of-chords guitar. Going deeper, Trifilio and company double down on both halves; “Cuffing Season” and “Colorblind” ramp up the aim-for-the-sky indie-pop, “April”, “Rearview”, and the quietly pretty woman-and-a-Wurlitzer departure “Racetrack” make downbeats that progress the record, not merely slow it down. An especially nice turn is the We Were Promised Jetpacks-style build-and-drop-off from the end of “April” to the start of “Racetrack”; it works as an anticipation builder, not an anti-climax. The standout track “Ms. California”, taken lyrically, is a heartbreak – “When you’re gone / she sleeps in your t-shirts / It hurts / I wish I was her” – but it’s a ginormous, fist-pumping chorus that makes you bounce.
Even after all that, it’s Honeymoon’s closing pair that seals the deal. “Dream Boy”, which was the first advance single, and “Cloud 9” pull off the thing that indie-pop almost always fails at: they’re ebulliently, unapologetically happy songs that are also two of the best on the record. I don’t have enough language for how deeply these two songs have been lodged in my brain. Just listen to them.
Beach Bunny are currently on the road, but if you don’t have tickets already you’ll probably need to go to Coachella or Europe later in the summer (the fall 2019 dates they announced along with “Ms. California” sold out in about an hour; a few dates in the southeast US still have tickets as of this writing). Catch them if you can now, if there’s any justice in this world they’re going to be huge.
Pros: All of it. Straight up great indie-pop record. Buy it, love it.
Cons: Not a goddamned thing.