When Brooklyn’s Beach Fossils released their self-titled debut in 2010, frontman Dustin Payseur had given little thought to his band’s name, which he’d offhandedly pulled from a notebook. By the time Captured Tracks released the band’s second record, Clash the Truth, an entire cottage industry of surf-pop acts had emerged in their wake, including Beach Day, Beach Vacation, and Horsebeach, just to name a few. As this initial wave of coastal indie-pop has rippled to new generations—see the surprise resurgence of Surf Curse’s 2013 track “Freaks” on TikTok, for example—Beach Fossils have grappled with their own identity, exploring washed out post-punk, paisley-patterned jangle pop, and even vocal jazz in reinventions that never quite matched their debut’s allure.
Bunny, their first project since 2017’s Somersault, folds together the best of each album in their discography. The scrappy, Flying Nun-inspired guitar tones that defined the band’s infancy are once again at the forefront, now supported by the noisy crescendos of Clash the Truth and the lush string arrangements that appeared on Somersault. In retracing these steps, Payseur has ample space to reflect on Beach Fossils’ trajectory, and in turn, his own growth as a person.
Payseur’s daydreamy lyrics remain steeped in memories of aimless drives and city skylines, but on Bunny, Beach Fossils’ celebrations of slackerdom find a wiser perspective in a concrete present. “Run to the Moon” and “Dare Me” open with similarly rowdy scenes of parties and basement shows, but branch off into separate trains of thought. On the former—a slide guitar-infused song that recalls the Byrds’ flirtations with country music—Payseur equates the sense of purpose he derives spending time with his baby daughter to the guiding light of celestial bodies, while the latter portrays an existential crisis spurred by life on the road. “Kill the cliché for a moment, and I’ll tell it like it is,” he sings. “Dare me to say something stupid: I think I need more than this.” The hesitance to get sincere is baked into the music, his disclaimers and defenses shattering in real time. “Is this a meaningful moment?” Payseur asks, interrupting an early morning bike ride on “Don’t Fade Away,” an ode to friends who’ve moved and subsequently lost touch. It’s true it may read like cliché, but in the anodyne world of Beach Fossils, it comes as a radical (and welcome) dose of reality.
Like rubbing fresh baseballs with mud to prepare them for regulation play, Bunny’s sound scuffs up the pristine mixing and baroque flourishes of Somersault with the gritty, riff-forward production that typified the band’s earlier work. “Tough Love” and “Seconds” do the best job of bridging each era of the band. On both songs, Payseur crafts complex latticework out of intersecting staccato guitar parts that could easily be slotted into Clash the Truth, but rather than meander as that album’s weaker tracks tended to, these verse sections build purposefully toward towering choruses. This sharpened focus also allows outright experiments in shoegaze like “Feel So High” to hit with the force of their early ’90s influences, instead of getting lost in a dense cloud of reverb.
Beach Fossils are still as laid-back as you remember, but in the six years since Somersault, the band has embraced a cozier mode of creative loafing, trading their old vices for melatonin, coffee, and Ativan. Bunny is not as uptempo and optimistic as the punk-adjacent guitar pop that put them on the map; instead it basks in its afterglow, as if spending the morning in bed after a long night out. The fleeting, unplaceable nostalgia that Beach Fossils helped proliferate during the chillwave era is now the object of Payseur’s own reminiscence. Bunny is proof you can look back while staying comfortably rooted in the present.
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