On Hippo Campus latest offering, Bambi, they continue to stretch out their unique brand of indie rock and get their audience to come along for every note of the thrilling LP. Hippo Campus have plenty of credibility and accolades to their name in just a short amount of time, and they could have gone any number of directions with their second full-length album. What we are left with is hard to classify, yet incredibly strong, work of art from the five-piece group from St. Paul, Minnesota.
The album opener, “Mistakes,” begins with a softly sung, and almost faint, vocal delivery while the midway point begins to bring on the other samples and noise elements that are prominent on this record. “Anxious” follows this introductory track with the quirky brand of Indie/Emo rock that we have grown accustomed to from the band over the years, while still bringing in fresh elements to the Hippo Campus sound. The first real hook that got me sucked into this record is when singer Jake Luppen shouts, “Tried screaming but I won’t believe it/I’ll tell them what they want to hear then/Just give me a week or two to find it/Then maybe we’ll get back to the place we started.” This is precisely what anxiety feels like making you do: screaming from the inside, all the while doubting yourself that it was the right path to take.
“Doubt” is a pure Hippo Campus song through and through, by that it has all of their “breadcrumbs” over it from their earlier EPs as well as 2016’s brilliant Landmark album. If there ever was a disclaimer that this band is comfortable with who they are and the music they want to create, its found all over Bambi.
The groove of the record changes a bit on the title track, with its Indie Rock meets lounge vibes, and typically when a band names their LP after a single song, it is to mark an essential statement in time. In reality, “Bambi” is one of the more displaced songs on the record, but it begins to carry more weight and meaning when you take the full body of work into consideration. The song was even self-described by the band as being “elusive,” in the way that it’s hard to grasp where it’s going entirely.
“Why Even Try” follows the title track with a softly strummed guitar and reminded me a lot of the feelings I had when I first heard Pinkerton. This track is their “Why Bother?” from that now-classic Weezer album, but they have truly made it their own on this record. The similarities to early Weezer can also be found on “Think It Over,” with its staggered beat and melancholy vibes.
“Bubbles” finds the group experimenting with new guitar riffs and sounds, with incredible results. The intricate playing of guitarists Luppen and Nathan Stocker make this track a memorable one, as they play off of each other’s strengths as musicians.
Other songs such as “Honestly,” with its organic stop/start introduction are all taken to heart, and make the band even more relatable as people. “Golden” is another excellent example of Hippo Campus hitting all the right notes, while still respecting their audience enough to change up their sound into a refreshing re-launch of their brand.
The last song, “Passenger,” was the first single released from the album, and is also one of the strongest moments of the band to date. The journey that Hippo Campus takes us through on this track is trippy, but at the same time, the lyrical content still brings them back down to Earth as people. When Luppen sings, “Passenger, I’m clinging to the driver’s seat/But you’ve got all the fight we need/In your room, so selfish/In your room, so selfish,” it would be hard to not believe him in his quest for peace in this mad, mad world we all live in.
Bambi to me is a record that challenges the way we view the world, and the people living on it, while still maintaining true to the ones we want to be with the most. In the end, Hippo Campus have made that strange, spacey sophomore record that is pretty damn great.