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Album review: Hippo Campus – warm glow

Sometimes a band’s songs feel like they all sound the same and sometimes this sensation is displeasing. However, St. Paul-based band Hippo Campus has managed to reconstruct this idea and its connotations. To the ears of a new listener (or even a long-term one), it could be argued that all of Hippo Campus’ songs sound the same, yet at the same time distinctly unique. Lyrics and instrumental nuances vary from track to track. It is a phenomenon few can master.

This concept and capability rings true on the band’s latest EP, warm glow. This release comes to us only a matter of months after the group’s debut album Landmark.

For the longest time, Hippo Campus could be defined by its high-energy guitar and drums and sensational lyrics, characteristics signature to the ever-evolving indie genre. With the release of Landmark, there was an undeniable shift in Hippo Campus’ development. This album was drenched in heavy production, including lots of synth and artistically-used autotune (this production is completely stripped when Hippo Campus performs live).

Warm glow is a blend of that intricate production with a comparable liveliness to their earlier work, while still presenting the band’s capability of having quiet, reflective moments in songs. This EP encapsulates Hippo Campus’ instrumental maturation as they carve out a space for their sound. Warm Glow is a pleasant in-between of their past and present.

In regards to Hippo’s lyricism, it hasn’t changed much, and that isn’t a bad thing. If anything, it improves with each release, growing more and more unconventionally poetic. The tracks that comprise warm glow prove this with unorthodox wordplay and the creation of abstract images that take a few listens to fully wrap your head around. Even then, each song could easily have multiple interpretations.

“Baseball,” the EP’s opening track, feels like the last day of summer: bouncy, bright and reminiscent. Of the three new songs, this is the most up-tempo of them, with a good groove all the way through. “Traveler” flows effortlessly between energetic and hard-hitting to dreamy and fluid. The lyrics stand out with haunting phrases that are downplayed by the vibrancy of its instrumental aspects, with lines like “We’re all mirages now/Everything’s vexing/I’m more unconvincing/Than both my parents now.” The closing song, “warm glow,” lives up to it’s name, as it’s the warm, soft vibe it gives off is undeniable. Frontman Jake Luppen’s falsetto stands out and aids in creating this ethereal vibe. Again, the lyrics hit home on this track – “Sky gone a certain shade of blue/The kind that heaven’s fixin’ up for you.”

Let’s also take a brief moment to appreciate the transition, or interlude, or whatever you’d like to call it, between “traveler” and “warm glow.” Hippo has become playful with creating a cohesiveness between songs, as seen on Landmark. This detail ties the songs together and forces listeners to consider them as a whole, consecutive piece rather than separate works.

Hippo Campus is a band wise beyond it’s years in every aspect of its music and performances. One can only hope that after they’re done touring for both Landmark and warm glow that another full-length will be in the works.

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