Beach Bunny’s Lili Trifilio is nothing if not an efficient and detail-oriented writer of punchy, guitar-powered pop-rock songs.
On the Chicago band’s sophomore album Emotional Creature, she wastes no time sowing a lyrical seed that will grow and grow over the next 11 songs: “I’ll get over it if you let me breathe / From the skin, ’cause my lungs tend to keep it within,” Trifilio sings to open “Entropy,” the album’s first track. By the second song, the respiratory motif has spread to the title, “Oxygen”—as in, “With you, I breathe again / Baby, you’re my oxygen.”
In a lesser songwriter’s hands, this might be a coincidence or a lark. In Trifilio’s, it’s the beginning stages of a vibrant, 37-minute sketch of a character bursting with blushing cheeks and an open-book heart, stubborn self-doubt and an uncertain mind, panic attacks, personal growth, secrets, shame, confusion, frustration, infatuation and inhales … exhales … inhales … exhales.
“Took a deep breath from the chest, but shallow execution,” Trifilio sings in “Eventually,” a melancholy song about dealing with anxiety. “Picked through the cracks in my mind, trying to find a solution.”
Like Horsegirl is now, Beach Bunny was Chicago’s next great young and female-led rock band a few years ago, thanks to Trifilio’s seemingly bottomless well of hooks, her highly relatable lyrics about life’s emotional highs and lows, and her band’s immaculate brand of upbeat and occasionally surf-y guitar pop. Since then, two of their songs—the title track from their 2018 Prom Queen EP and “Cloud 9” from Honeymoon, their 2020 full-length debut—have gone viral on TikTok, where users flock to Trifilio’s candid couplets about body image, mom jeans, love, heartbreak and finding your worth in the actions of others.
Several songs on Emotional Creature find Trifilio pushing away from that last point and toward self-worth. “Deadweight” is a typically addictive two-and-a-half-minute blast, with a rollercoaster melody and an everybody-shout-along chorus: “Don’t wanna let go / But I can’t stay this way.” In “Gone,” a propulsive piece of Paramore-lite, she’s “tired of waiting on a telephone call” before declaring, “If you’re gonna string things out, just let me go.” And if there’s a future TikTok hit here, it’s “Weeds,” which features a very catchy cadence and sounds like a conversation between Past Lili and Current Lili:
And I wonder
Where’s my happy ever after?
I’m obsessed, depressed, can’t seem to find no closure
What’s the point in getting dressed
If the two of us are over?
’Cause he’s not the problem
The problem is you think you’re only viable for love when someone makes you feel complete
You’re a diamond
Wish you could see you the way I see
You can’t blossom if you keep growing gardens out of weeds
That second stanza, by the way, might be Emotional Creature’s most indelible hook.
The album’s second half finds Beach Bunny stretching out a bit, with a spacey synth instrumental (“Gravity”), a 71-second dream-pop interlude (“Infinity Room”) and another synth-heavy song (“Scream”) that not only works, but is also a highlight of Emotional Creature for three reasons: 1. It’s catchy, of course. 2. It provides some sonic variation at just the right time. And 3. It illuminates a path forward for Beach Bunny if they decide to try something besides pumping out pop-punk perfection and blowing up online.
Just kidding … even if they switch things up, this band seems destined to be a presence on social media for years to come; Emotional Creature makes it clear Trifilio has a gift that’s not going anywhere. Keep an eye out for Beach Bunny on a phone near you.
Ben Salmon is a committed night owl with an undying devotion to discovering new music. He lives in the great state of Oregon, where he hosts a killer radio show and obsesses about Kentucky basketball from afar. Ben has been writing about music for more than two decades, sometimes for websites you’ve heard of but more often for alt-weekly papers in cities across the country. Follow him on Twitter at @bcsalmon.