The artwork for Beach Bunny’s Emotional Creature depicts an illustrated Lili Trifilio at the forefront of a galactic midnight blue sky, the lead singer staring blankly as extraterrestrial purple hands caress her. While the cover portrays a venture into space, the album itself presents very different imagery. The record elicits lush gardens, sunshine rays and abundant flower beds — metaphors for Trifilio’s blossoming heart.
Beach Bunny’s debut album Honeymoon explored Trifilio’s pain-soaked impression of love. Even “Cloud 9,” Honeymoon’s most successful and optimistic track, insinuates the euphoria of romance will inevitably subside. However, the band’s sophomore album reveals Trifilio’s latest spiral toward infatuation. At its core, Emotional Creature, released July 22, provides insight into the artist’s battle with managing her anxiety as she chases romantic bliss.
Trifilio routinely incorporates nature and weather symbolism throughout the album to emphasize the internal renaissance her new love has sparked. Sun, rain and flowers in bloom recur throughout, illuminating Trifilio’s rapidly changing world. She also often reflects on the state of her lungs and heart, exemplifying the physical manifestations of apprehension and love. The album indisputably contains a sense of softness and warmth — contrary to the cold aloofness that the cover suggests.
In opener “Entropy,” Trifilio’s vocals strain as she relishes in the safety of her relationship. While certain moments, such as Trifilio’s blushing cheeks and struggling lungs, indicate embarrassment, the track centers around the musician’s developing carefree nature. Her voice cutely quivers as she informs her partner, “I’m falling for you.” “Entropy” ultimately concludes with Trifilio relinquishing her shame and running into the rain with her lover.
“Oxygen” and “Eventually” similarly portray attaining a significant other as a great opportunity to alleviate nervousness. The former’s structure particularly highlights this: The verses’ quick, stressful confessions of Trifilio’s difficulties with maneuvering everyday life juxtapose against the chorus, during which she delights in her lover’s ability to help her to cope with ease. In “Eventually,” Trifilio’s voice prettily lowers as she describes a panic attack. She praises her lover’s patience and commends them for stabilizing her.
While there is nothing wrong with finding solace in a relationship, Beach Bunny sends conflicting messages. Bouncy and defiant, “Weeds” warns of the dangers of deriving one’s self worth solely from a relationship. Trifilio addresses listeners, singing, “The problem is you think you’re only viable for love when someone makes you feel complete.” While the track melodically and lyrically thrives, it feels frustrating for Trifilio to adopt this voice of authority following several songs where she exemplifies contradictory behavior.
In the subsequent “Infinity Room,” Trifilio poetically declares the sun and ocean pale in comparison to her lover, or “the one that makes living so sweet.” Thematically, the record often feels devoid of true complexity. It seems that Beach Bunny attempts to imbue its work with an inspirational zest, but unfortunately, it reads as incredibly disingenuous.
Nevertheless, “Weeds” undeniably contains several satisfying moments. Near the middle of the track, Trifilio tersely remarks, “Not your Polly Pocket in your lover’s locket/ You can’t hold me down.” Trifilio is no stranger to doll metaphors; in 2018’s “Prom Queen,” she mournfully states, “I’m no Quick-Curl Barbie.” The best part of “Weeds” is experiencing Trifilio’s transformation from lamenting her inability to resemble a doll to righteously distancing herself from objectification. The conflicting messages in Emotional Creature tragically dim this great connection to the band’s previous discography, reducing “Weeds” to a performative female empowerment anthem.
Each song in Emotional Creature stands strong on its own, but they flounder when compiled together. Constructed with the same grungy strumming and raspy belting, the songs become an indistinguishable, repetitive slog. While the lyrics of each track manage to amuse, charm and devastate, they conceptually wither as either redundant or contradictory.
The album as a whole exhibits little growth by Beach Bunny. The band remains sonically stuck in its Honeymoon era while failing to replicate its magic.