“It’s hard to think clearly and then say what you mean,” Beach Bunny’s Lili Trifilio sings on the band’s fantastic debut. It’s a line that’s striking in its innocent, unguarded honesty, just as the music is thrilling in its tuneful exuberance. Beach Bunny are four adorable Chicago emo kids in their early twenties who’ve been releasing music for the past few years, mostly teen-themed garage-pop tunes with titles like “Sports” and “Boys” and “Six Weeks,” the latter about the oceanic span of time elapsed since a breakup. One of those songs, the movingly matter-of-fact 2018 negative-body-imaging takedown “Prom Queen,” has more than 40 million Spotify streams, thanks largely to its popularity on TikTok, suggesting vox populi possibilities for Trifilio’s jagged little missives from the ever-evolving front lines of figuring out who to love and who she is and what to do about it.
Honeymoon will be an immediate boon to fans of heart-on-sleeve indie bands like That Dog, Waxahatchee, Charli Bliss, and the Beths. Trifilio is a very good songwriter with a lovely, somewhat folk-toned voice, and Beach Bunny are all good musicians who’ve attained an impressive amount of musical know-how in their few years together. (Trifilio, a DePaul grad, was recently asked back to her alma mater to give a songwriting seminar.) They cover a lot of ground in the album’s nine songs — from the pop punk of “Promises” and “Cuffing” to the cuddle-core ballad “April” to the Paramore-like push-pull explosiveness of “Colorblind” to Trifilio’s solo organ rumination “Racetrack,” which brings to mind the piano poetry of Joanna Newsom. Several songs effortlessly speed along into agile twin-guitar breaks that are almost like Congolese soukous in their liquid synergy.
Trifilio sings about overcoming self-doubt in ways that seem both archetypal and original. The outrageously hook-stuffed “Ms. California” makes jealousy feel anthemic, a perfectly shaped song that processes awkward feelings of inadequacy in real time. You bop your head along as she sings plaintively, “When you’re gone, she sleeps in your T-shirts,” but when she pauses — “it hurts” — you pause, too, because it’s so genuine and normal, making what could be hand-me-down pop angst feel heartbreakingly new. “Dream Boy” goes from tense, strummy beginning to slashing verse to radio-worthy chorus hook and another of those twin-guitar breaks, with the song’s musical drive and insistence backing her demands for romantic satisfaction and respect.
After barreling through a mountain of feelings in a refreshingly brief span of time, Beach Bunny end the album on “Cloud 9,” a quick, slick song about a love so new and freeing it literally inspires lyrics about flying. Such a sentiment might seem hokey if the song didn’t begin “I don’t want to seem the way I do/But I’m confident when I’m with you,” the kind of admission you only make in a moment of unguarded realness, or you might not have the nerve to say out loud at all. She belts it big and proud, and makes it feel classic.