Hippo Campus’s ‘LP3’ Album: Is the genre changing, or are we?

John Kiser, Staff Writer

American Indie Rock band Hippo Campus hooked audiences with their 2015 debut EP, “Bashful Creatures,” and singles like “Suicide Saturday” and “Sophie So.” The band’s flowy, upbeat guitar combined with Jake Luppen and Nathan Stocker’s loud, almost abrasive vocals continued to garner a following and, in 2017, Hippocampus released “Landmark,” their first full-length album. 

A longtime fan myself, it saddens me to say that Hippo Campus’ most recent album, “LP3,” has lost the youthful buzz that made the band’s initial work so attractive. 

Hippo Campus’ Spotify bio says the band “wanted with ‘LP3’ something all five of them could agree on, the way they’d made music in the early days of the band” and “[‘LP3’] is the most honest portrait of them as a band.” 

However, as the album opens, it becomes clear that Hippo Campus has either been pleasing its audience all these years with music inauthentic to themselves or they’ve gone too far in experimentation. 

LP3 begins with “2 Young 2 Die,” an apparent ode to young people who feel invincible. The song melds mellow vocals, trumpet and drums to create an awkward, raspy sound, reminiscent of my junior high Garage Band days. 

“2 Young 2 Die” is followed by “Blew Its,” which has a very quick, overstimulating rhythm that sounds like riding a bike over train tracks. It’s somewhat melodic, but largely overwhelming. 

“Listerine” — like “Bang, Bang,” “Scorpio” and other experimental punk-pop songs on the album — created a post-mortem feeling of unrequited love and questionable decisions. No doubt, these tracks retain a characteristic Hippo-Campus-catchiness, but they seem to get lost in excessive synthesizer techniques.  

Thankfully, there were a few songs which pulled the 10-track album from eternal obscurity and miraculously landed it more listens on Spotify than previous Hippo Campus albums. 

“Semi Pro” opens with an optimistic intro, then melds into a bittersweet, all-too-relatable melody about what it feels like to be “semi-pro” as opposed to “pro.” After several sports-related analogies — “sitting on the bench,” “playing for both teams” and “taking a lap” — listeners must relinquish their melancholy and join the refrain, “I’ve been bad but I wanna get better.” 

In “Ride or Die,” listeners are given a bit more of that shoulder-wiggling sensation than in “Semi Pro.” Lead singers Jake Luppen and Nathan Stocker traded their classic, youthful belting for harmonized vocals, and the effect is a groovy switch-up. 

“Boys,” the most popular track on the album thus far, is exceptionally smooth, cutting quickly to the chorus and synth’s pulsing electricity. It’s a lively party song, a bit repetitive, but altogether as memorable as past Hippo Campus hits. 

I’m unashamed to admit that I often hark back to the good ol’ days, when Hippo Campus was synonymous with my high school years. Take the single “Buttercup” from the album “Landmark,” for instance.

Solid punch, kind of eyes, make ’em wobbly

Gothic vine, growing fire in the lobby

Lighten up, buttercup, get a hobby

Yeah, swing, sucker, swing, finish sobbing” 

These visceral lyrics grab you before you even reach the second chorus — “She’ll be fine on her own” — then throw your body into a forward motion as everyone in the car experiences whiplash from bopping too hard. 

It’s still hard to imagine Hippo Campus outside of their 2017 sound, so perhaps it’s too early to tell if Hippo Campus’ earlier work will forever overshadow “LP3.” 

Who knows, maybe this new pop/punk/indie sound will be “a tender-hearted stumbling that leads you on the right path,” like the band claims. For now though, I’m going to stick to my tried-and-true Hippo Campus classics, and maybe pop in once in a while to give “LP3” a listen. 

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