LP3: Hippo Campus’ Experimental Revamp, by Grace Zurawski
Indie pop/rock fans everywhere, rejoice: Hippo Campus has released their first full-length album since 2018. As a committed follower of their music since “Landmark” in 2017, I pressed play on LP3 immediately. Hippo Campus has made a name for themselves by experimenting with new styles on every album while staying true to their original sound. They haven’t ditched their old music completely, just switched directions for the time being. (Something mainstream indie bands are not known for.) As their audience has aged, the band has too, which is apparent in their new sound and lyricism. Their signature upbeat sound has transformed into a grittier, experienced version of their previous selves, ready to show just how serious they are about music. Dreamy (sometimes otherworldly) images often accompany Hippo Campus’ songs, but LP3 has a simple tri-color palette of sketched images.
LP3 feels like the dawn of a newer, realer era for Hippo Campus. As soon as I experienced the synth-filled truth of the album, I knew this was an inarguably defining moment for Hippo Campus.
The opening track of “2 Young 2 Die,” introduces us to a popular theme in the album: realizing just how lost and confused most young people feel in their twenties. It describes feeling invincible when you’re young, then growing up and having an existential crisis over who you are and what your place is in this world. The synthesizer in this song feels symbolic to throwing off the rhythm of apparent comfort and reevaluating yourself. The band’s lead, Jake Luppen, wrote this around the beginning of the pandemic, an appropriate moment to embrace pent-up panic.
Favorite Lyric: “I need a moment to get outside of my head, I'm trying/God knows that that shit's never right”
Because of its unconventional and whimsical sound, the second track reminded me of Miracle Musical, the side project of Joe Hawley from the band Tally Hall. One of my favorites, “Blew Its” is urgent, and different from their usual sound. Almost unpredictable in its build up, ‘Blew Its” is about lacking the courage to do the things you’re afraid of, missing your chance so many times, and experiencing the angst and frustration that comes with not being able to simply do it. The name is clever, creating a noun out of the phrase “blowing it,” or when you screw up a perfectly good opportunity. After finally getting sick of all the “blew its” in the writer’s life, a chance is taken and the keys come together after the rattling intro. This song grows on me everytime I listen to it, especially due to the dream-like feel of the bridge.
Favorite Lyric: “Eat it up, it's a piece of cake/Pull the pin and pray it's loaded”
Next up is my personal favorite, “Ashtray” Staying true to the indie rock sound, there’s plenty of electric guitar involved, and it feels far less pop than the other songs. “Ashtray” is real and metaphorical in the way it confronts being fed up with someone, or something, in the writer’s life. The lyric “I’m fine, I’m here like half of the time” demonstrates how much effort it takes just to be halfway present. Including tropical guitar riffs and a steady amount of drums, it’s an ideal song to sing along to when you’re feeling particularly passionate.
Favorite Lyric: “If you got something to say, you should say it/I can't waste more time on your miscues/Tried to pretend like I saw it and called it/But I can't act like it doesn't bother me now”
Track #4 “Bang Bang” tells of a long distance relationship going sour after far too long of “making things work.” Luppen’s lyrics explain that when you’re not with the person all the time, it gets easier to avoid the issue and be “happy.”
Favorite Lyric: “Dead winter gonna snow me in/I got a bad thing going but I'm into it”
Heavy on the sports metaphors, “Semi Pro” reminds me of Hippo Campus’ older songs with its bubbly, swaying opening. Hippo Campus gained a lot of their success from live shows, so the pandemic led to them “being out of the game” and noticing how music wasn’t all that important in the grand scheme of things. Like at the end of an athlete’s career, they came to peace with this, although their current tour schedule shows that they definitely didn’t need to.
Favorite Lyric: “Sitting on the bench, I've been in it/Losing like a chore, coming up alone, yeah”
The next song, “Ride or Die” is pretty self-explanatory. It’s a catchy and fun tune that discusses doing whatever you need to for the person you love and how everything else becomes irrelevant when you’re with them. This brought me back to the old Hippo Campus with its lighthearted vibe.
Favorite Lyric: “Spend my money but I’ll make it back, like cold hard cash, like blood on the pavement”
At this point in the album, things start to get more mature. These next few songs feel like they tell stories happening in the late night when everything gets quieter and it becomes the ideal time to overthink for hours on end.“Scorpio” tells about a relationship with a Scorpio and doing bad things just because they feel right at the time. The song has a careless vibe of doing destructive things just for the hell of it until morning comes and reality kicks in, as heard in the high-pitched, sweet tunes toward the end. They give the feeling of right when the sun is breaking through the blinds in the morning.
Favorite Lyric: “Late nights with the TV on, sandman been away too long/Stay up til the break of dawn, necessary, necessary evil”
Honestly, I was somewhat bored by “Listerine” at first. It felt like just another slow, emotional song, until I listened a few more times and fell in love with it. It has an intimate and private sound, with lyrics to match. They were so personally written that it felt like hearing a secret. Band member Nathan Stocker says that “Listerine” explains how everyone has issues, and you need the help of others to fix them. It’s admitting you’re defenseless and trapped where you are until you do something about it.
Favorite Lyric: “Your closet smile, held like a knife”
“Boys” is inarguably the band’s most popular song on the album (and one of mine). It sums up being at one of your lowest points and having to reassess your life and goals, like waking up over and over again in a constant state of hangxiety and the revelation that comes with it. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to grow up and become a new version of yourself, a feeling present in this nuanced version of Hippo Campus. It has raw and real lyrics, confronting Luppen’s questioning of his sexuality. (Luppen has just recently become public about this, says it's something that constantly changes for people, and that it’s okay.) New York City is a big part of “Boys” because of the significance it’s had on Luppen and how his views have changed. As he’s grown up and experienced all different things, he’s changed as a person and found new things that matter to him.
Favorite Lyric: “Going broke, make it rain/Ain't got nobody to blame/All this time down the drain/I'm the best at insane”
To close out LP3, “Understand” ends on an uplifting and hopeful note. This song describes the complexity and difficulty of love and life, and having to go where the wind takes you if you want to end up with what makes you happy. “Understand” feels blissful and smooth like a calm wind blowing in your hair. It has a slow ending (like the conclusion of a movie), promising a bright future and trust in the unknown. Whereas the first song “2 Young 2 Die” was panicked and nervous, “Understand” comes to terms with the inevitable while holding a certain optimism.
Favorite Lyric: “I don't care what we are, it just has to work”
After feeling bored by any and all new music in my Discover Weekly, LP3 was a welcomed accidental find. I’ve both remembered why I love Hippo Campus, and that I should probably scroll down my Spotify homepage more often.