Album Review: Beach Fossils – Bunny

[Bayonet; 2023]

It’s been a while since Beach Fossils broke into the hearts of blossoming late teens and 20-year-olds during the early 2010s with their lovelorn shimmery pop sound — so long, in fact, their lightning-in-a-bottle allure started to become just that. But Beach Fossils have awakened from the long slumber to return with much of… the same? On Bunny, the band does what it does best, which may not actually be for the best — easygoing indie rock befitting sweltering summer days. But, after a six-year wait, this is a disappointing non-development.

To be honest, I may have played myself thinking that a band so ingrained within a single style could evolve — but even by their standards, Bunny pins Beach Fossils as a shell of its former self. This band, which once brilliantly balanced raucous shots of energy with the space to dream in the ethereal, strip themselves almost entirely of excitement with the exception of an occasional striking riff here and there (“Seconds”) or a mere chorus or two to savor (“Don’t Fade Away”, “Tough Love”). But for the uninspired majority, Bunny sees Beach Fossils engulf themselves within the confines of their more reflective and melodic tendencies, executed without much emotion or conviction. 

For those who became converts of Beach Fossils when they released the sunkissed daydream that was 2017’s Somersault, this might sound quite appealing, and I couldn’t blame them. After all, Bunny envelops listeners in a comforting wall of glistening reverb, while Dustin Payseur’s yearnful, celestial voice again makes for a sedative qualm for anxious hearts and a place to escape. As time passes, however, even devotees will soon find this mesmeric getaway hardly one to return to. It’s unremarkable — inoffensive even.

It’s possible that Bunny is at least a nudge on the shoulder that wakes listeners from the nap they were lulled into by their 2017 record. Some swear by Somersault, but it takes a particular person to do so — music consumed by those who now use the word “vibe” in their daily vernacular and tote around a Contax t3 film camera as an accessory. In other words, it’s an album that existed for nostalgic aesthetics with little substance. I’m only half kidding because those same people will undoubtedly be jamming out to this new record, as Bunny does at least try, though often failingly, to be exciting.

There are no rowdy crowd movers like “Clash The Truth” from their addictive third record of the same name, but Bunny does offer a couple romantic romps that harken to their early career material, à la 2011’s “What A Pleasure” and “Youth” from their 2010 debut. Songs from this new record like “Seconds”, “Don’t Fade Away” or even “Dare Me” (unsurprisingly all singles) could all fit nicely into any of the band’s early career output, with each moment brandishing an infectious vocal melody and memorable chorus lacking elsewhere throughout this new project. Try coming away from listening to “Dare Me” without humming its delectable pre-chorus long after, “I’ll be your Contender / If we can live forever…” With a sticky rhythm section, too, “Dare Me” is a rare instance of the band remembering that its power lies within simplicity and the willingness to offer impressionable moments to listeners — it’s practically a perfect pop song about the trappings of living carefree and the accompanying desire for stability and meaning. 

Unfortunately, listeners will be looking for stability themselves as they wade through the ordinary and overcast rest of the record, which aims to be a ray of light. No matter how easygoing or however briefly some of these songs leave an impression — whether that be due to a solid vocal performance or a rumbling guitar groove — this collection of radiant jangle pop songs, burdened by nostalgic love and depressive yearning for something real, ultimately loses its luster. Everything else blends into one garbled, hazy murmur that ensues without much variance. 

In today’s indie music landscape, finding the appeal in what Beach Fossils wield is challenging. They continue to create pleasant dream pop tinged with jangly tones, which certainly had its place in the 2010s; however, time has since past the need for that Beach Fossils sound. Sometimes fossils should remain just that — fossils — but that doesn’t mean their music, if nothing else, doesn’t have purpose in being some damn good background music.