Lili Trifilio, the leader of Beach Bunny, rose to indie-pop prominence largely thanks to teenage girls circulating her songs on TikTok. In the five years since her solo project expanded into a full lineup with guitarist Matt Henkels, bassist Anthony Vaccaro, and drummer Jon Alvarado, the 25-year-old songwriter has amassed a sea of loyal fans who attend the band’s shows en masse to participate in female-dominated mosh pits, driven largely by the mutual rage of a broken heart. It’s easy to hear why Beach Bunny’s music has garnered such devotion. Trifilio writes about widely understood experiences: the self-doubt prompted by a relationship on the fritz, the thrill of being so infatuated with someone you want the world to watch you kiss them, the malaise of feeling unfit to be prom queen. Her melodies de ella, meanwhile, stick with the spirit of an early 2000s Radio Disney hit—memorable and pleasant, if slightly simplistic.
The group’s 2020 debut, Honeymoon, was an unsophisticated but charming bible of love songs that mirrored the catharsis of sleepover gossip. When the pandemic rendered that therapeutic sense of community impossible, Trifilio spent the newly acquired free time taking in galactic sci-fi stories like starwars and star trek; perhaps feeling a bit distanced from herself, she began writing her second album, emotional creature. Its 12 songs attempt to capture the burden of a bleeding heart: “I feel confused by what I’m ashamed for/I feel ashamed by my human nature,” she sings on “Scream,” a synth-embellished ballad that culminates in a distant shriek. With Fall Out Boy and Motion City Soundtrack go-to Sean O’Keefe handling production, emotional creature is Trifilio’s neatly packaged documentation of quarter-life angst.
The thematic cornerstone of emotional creature is “Weeds,” a mid-tempo rock ditty that builds to a sweeping, anthemic coda. “I’m tired of being anxious, broken, choking on my tears/I let the same old problems steal away my years,” she sings, and you can almost picture Trifilio talking directly to herself in her bathroom mirror: “He’s not the problem/The problem is you think you’re only viable for love when someone makes you feel complete.” Throughout the record there are subtle hints of growth—both personal and musical—but they’re often dragged down by the redundancy of her thematic concerns. From feeling a little too dependent on a partner (“Oxygen”) to finding your dream boy (“Love Song”), she’s covered a lot of this subject matter before, often better the first time.
In the great pursuit for relatability, Trifilio’s lyrics are familiar and nonspecific: “But then I fall into your arms again/After all, is this the end?” she hollers on the searing “Gone.” During the pandemic, she moved back in with her parents de ella and perhaps as a side effect, emotional creature is filled with vignettes of innocent bedroom scenes: “I can’t hide the letters in my bedroom,” she sings over a Michelle Branch-like chug on opener “Entropy,” before telling a love interest that their “laugh lives in [her] bedroom” on closer “Love Song.” And while it’s heartening to hear a genuinely enthusiastic underdog like Trifilio take on a more polished sound, her shortcomings become more discernible without the casual, garagey shading of her past work.