Self-described bedroom pop purveyors Beach Fossils are back in 2023 with a new album called Bunny, and it is pretty damn good. But it’s also not what you might expect if you’re a long-time fan of the band. Today, I’m going to dig in, share what makes this album different, and show you my copy on baby blue marble vinyl.
We’ll start with the music. And for that we need to go back a decade or so.
Beach Fossils: 2010 to 2021
Hailed as one of the more notable and influential New York City indie bands of the 2010s, Beach Fossils debuted in 2010 with their self titled LP and quickly followed it a year later with an EP called What a Pleasure. Critically acclaimed, these early releases married the bedroom pop they hold claim to with jangly, angular, near post-punk sounds filtered through a summer dream pop haze. Pair that with the hyped up catchiness of carefree youth and the trifecta was complete.
Among my favorites by the band is their sophomore LP Clash the Truth from 2013. They reached new pinnacles with the title track “Clash the Truth,” the breathtaking “Sleep Apnea” (no pun intended), and tracks like “Shallow,” “In Vertigo,” and “Ascension.”
Somersault, which I covered last year on its fifth anniversary, dropped in 2017 followed by the odd session-style LP The Other Side of Life: Piano Ballads in 2021. The latter saw the band remaking many fan favorites as mellow ballads accompanied by piano and the occasional saxophone. These two albums saw the band maturing significantly, which brings me to this year’s Bunny.
Pitchfork has a great pull quote that sums up Bunny quite nicely in two brief sentences:
Beach Fossils’ latest album distills the best of their daydreamy indie-pop with new wisdom and existential angst. But they’re just still as laid-back as you remember.Beach Fossils: Bunny [Pitchfork, 2023]
Laid back, yes. But much of that angular element that truly started disappearing around Somersault continues to fade in favor of a heightening dreaminess.
This SOUNDS like growth, like maturity.
There’s a lot to unpack here. Frontman Dustin Payseur still has call outs familiar to the band’s origins, but woven in are commentaries on fatherhood and lamentation of life on the road. And within it all, Beach Fossils flirts just enough with the sounds they created throughout their tenure as a band to nibble at your ear a little, teasing you just enough to grab your attention and re-focus it back to the band again and again.
This is what growing up sounds like; the juxtaposition between the upbeat youthful pop of the band’s early years washed over with thematically nostalgic yet familiar notes for those like myself, now cemented in middle age at 42.
Top Tracks from Bunny
There are a lot of great tracks here, from opening pair “Sleeping on My Own” and “Run to the Moon” to the first single “Don’t Fade Away.” We get a few styles right off the bat…
The first track establishes a full-on hazy melody, and those angular, jangly, staccato guitars are front and center but not overplayed or overemphasized like they were early in the band’s days.
Then the throwback to the youthful party days surfaces on “Run to the Moon” — Dustin coos: staying up all night, we’re all taking drugs. The cool swagger is carefree, yet the maturity is still fully evident.
In “Don’t Fade Away” and “Seconds,” Beach Fossils gives us a sound that would have fully been at home on Clash the Truth. Contrast that with “Dare Me” and “Tough Love,” which call back to Somersault.
One of my personal favorites is “(Just Like The) Setting Sun” on which Dustin reminisces about youthful ideas surrounding connection, loneliness, and reaching that tipping point of anxiety, overwhelm, and burnout. There’s a depth that was always present, but never so apparent here and throughout Bunny that caught me a bit off guard.
Summing it Up
To sum it up, I’m quite enjoying Bunny much like I quite enjoyed Somersault. It’s good, solid bedroom pop that blends in elements you don’t often hear in that sub-genre. That makes it unique. And, like I mentioned earlier, Bunny sees the band progressing and maturing in surprising and unexpected ways — ways I didn’t think were possible for the band.
However, I’m not sure it quite hits the pinnacle of Clash the Truth. And, I’m a little disappointed that it didn’t include the two singles the band released between Somersault and now. In particular is “Agony” from 2018, which I became obsessed with in the past few years to the point where it’s become one of my all time favorites by Beach Fossils. Of course, the song is a cover so it makes sense that they wouldn’t include it. “Agony” is originally by Yung Lean, a Swedish rapper out of Stockholm.
Alas, Bunny is great in its own way and I’m sure it’ll continue growing on me as the year continues. The album just missed inclusion on my Best Albums of 2023 So Far list, which I compiled and prepped a day or two before picking up the album. You can see ten more albums I love from the first half of this year in that post.