Beach Bunny’s debut album, Honeymoon (2020), isn’t revolutionary, but the bright blast of indie pop is a refreshingly sincere addition to a genre that can be riddled with clichés. Lili Trifilio, a 23-year-old, Chicago-based songwriter, rose to prominence under the pseudonym Beach Bunny after releasing her 2018 single “Prom Queen”. The track prods at Trifilio’s teenage uncertainties, lamenting the lasting impacts of beauty standards established by high school cliques. The opening lines, “Shut up, count your calories / I never looked good in mom jeans” became a hit on TikTok, bringing Trifilio’s project, Beach Bunny, into popular culture.
Following this massive success, Trifilio expanded Beach Bunny into a band which now includes Matt Henkels on guitar, Anthony Voccaro on bass, and Jon Alvarado on drums. While their first EP, Animalism (2016) was filled with coming-of-age narratives accompanied by emo rock instrumentals, Honeymoon has grown out of melodrama into sunny chord progressions and upbeat vibes, despite the lyrics of heartbreak and fear.
Trifilo describes Honeymoon’s opening track, “Promises,” as “the most honest and vulnerable on the record.” Her heart-on-sleeve lyricism paired with the indie pop guitar and drums sets a uniform tone for the album. Trifilio’s lyrics about loving someone while still hating them could easily evoke emo chord progressions and soft vocals, but Trifilio’s voice is brutally steady and loud—representative of a woman who is healing through her heartbreak.
Honeymoon chiefly revolves around Trifilio’s insecurity regarding her body, relationships, and future. Yet for the banality of her song subjects, Trifilio’s lyricism is still witty and unique. In “April,” her most popular song on Spotify, wistful vocals break through Henkel’s guitar riff, beginning the requiem for a regret-filled breakup. Though Honeymoon is filled with lamentations of breakups, Beach Bunny is careful to avoid the blame that oftentimes accompanies heartbreak. “Sometimes I like being on my own / I’m afraid of winding up alone,” Trifilio sings in “Cuffing Season,” taking responsibility for the failing relationship.
The band is honest, often representing problems as an amalgamation of two-sided issues. They do not shy away from complexity, escaping the black and white narrative that so many indie bands have fallen victim to. Their candidness imbues all aspects of Honeymoon, moving beyond just the words. Henkel’s guitar isn’t hiding behind layers of stomp boxes or effect pedals. The most complex modifications made to the guitars post-recording are the left-right panning and chorus effects. Henkel’s tone is consistently clear, and every note is discrete and distinguishable in the basic mix of guitar, bass, and drums. While the musicianship itself is not spectacular or genre-bending, the 25-minute album doesn’t waste a second on unnecessary solos or vocal runs. Each bass line and tom fill impacts the progression of the song and propels the album into a higher state of meaning. Brevity is a lost art in this age of music, and Beach Bunny actively restores this aspect in their debut album.
This is not to say that Honeymoon is particularly singular or radical in its expansion of the indie pop genre. A likely comparison can be drawn between Beach Bunny’s chord progressions and Best Coast’s established indie pop ones. In a similar vein, their authentic, straightforward lyrics are reminiscent of those performed by Waxahatchee, Lady Lamb, or Soccer Mommy. But just because Honeymoon isn’t a completely different combination of surf indie and sincere narratives doesn’t mean that the album should be cast aside as another indie band headed by a girl with stories to tell. Trifilio’s folk-tinged vocals paired with the rosy instrumentals are, at their worst, fun to listen to and, at their best, an uplifting addition to the typical, downtrodden indie genre.
Honeymoon is produced to perfection. Each instrument is clear, and the quality of the songs can be analyzed and synthesized through both speakers and headphones—a rare feat of mixing accomplished in any genre. The album isn’t establishing a foundational precedent for the genre, so if you’re looking for the next Tame Impala or Mitski, then you won’t find it here. But there is something to say for the short album’s ability to preserve stories of heartbreak and insecurity in a sunny, uplifting nine song repertoire.
Indie music doesn’t have to be jaded or principally groundbreaking to hold significance. Beach Bunny’s Honeymoon recounts the band members’ failures, doubts, and fears. Through their candor, they advocate for hope, for a better future where they learn from these experiences. This hope is reason enough to listen to their debut album.