March 10, 2017 by Ben Wolbransky
The first time I’d heard of Hippo Campus was when they were playing one of WXPN’s Free At Noon concerts last year (obligatory plug — World Cafe Live puts on a free show every Friday at noon with stellar artists). Their hit “Suicide Saturday” instantly stood out to me as a jam. I added a few of their songs to a playlist, but with nothing more than a six-song EP to their name, I came to forget about Hippo Campus.
Enter October of 2016. Scrolling through Spotify’s New Music Friday playlist, I saw the band reemerge with a new single, “Boyish.” The song was as upbeat and exciting as most indie rock songs I’ve come to love. I was instantly hooked. Hippo Campus announced their first full-length album, “Landmark,” to be released in February 2017 and it was instantly marked in my calendar.
Hippo Campus’s 13-song LP begins with a bizarre 79-second recording called “Sun Veins,” before following into the psychedelic licks of “Way It Goes.” The song is a bright opening for the album — the melancholy chorus features a seductive guitar riff, the soft vocals are a sweet treat and the atmosphere the song creates is reminiscent of better days, having fun and really being happy. The song is a great way to open up the album.
It’s hard to highlight songs from the album, since each song provides a unique flavor. The album does a great job of showcasing the talents of the indie rock four-piece. From the lyrical genius, to the catchy tunes, to the overall atmosphere of “Landmark,” Hippo Campus did a great job piecing together what truly sounds like a one-of-a-kind masterpiece.
Though some of the songs really don’t make sense, each song does such a great job painting a vivid scene to irresistible choruses, particularly “Epitaph.” I can’t get over some of the lyrical work in this song, particularly the bridge: “I need nothing more than my problems/Just let me know when you’ve found them/You’ve got tact and I’ve got bravado/I’m a ghost and you are a shadow.”
The album blends nicely, with each song sounding like a great successor to the one before it. My favorites are “Simple Season,” “Tuesday” and “Monsoon.”.
“Simple Season” sounds like a traditional upbeat indie song. Its chorus has gotten stuck in my head more times than I care to admit. “Tuesday” is skillfully composed; its unique sound stands out on the album, yet it still feels as familiar as a Hippo Campus song. “Monsoon” is an emotional ballad coupled with powerful imagery. This is the song I find myself coming back to the most.
All in all, Hippo Campus created a first album worth a listen. Each song has a fresh sound yet the album feels whole and complete. Hippo Campus is beginning a tour in their hometown of Minnesota this weekend and will be coming to Philadelphia’s own Union Transfer March 28. As if their album won’t be enough to win you over, their live performance most certainly will.