It was a pleasant surprise to discover that Hippo Campus released a brand new EP last week, even after they dropped their first full-length album just earlier this year. After listening to the lead track, “baseball,” one could say that the arrival of this EP came straight out of left field (pun intended).
This band — a band whose sound defines what it means to be indie rock in 2017 — from St. Paul, Minnesota has only been active since 2013, and their popularity has been on a steep incline ever since. They’ve played at festivals across the country including South by Southwest, Lollapalooza, and Bonnaroo, so they are definitely a band to keep on your indie rock radar.
I will admit that I cheated during my first listen of this EP and played “baseball” on repeat probably three or four times in a row. I know they say that you should initially listen to all of the songs on an EP or LP in full in order to get the full intended effect, but this first tune was just so darn catchy. Sometimes, due to the lead singer’s inflections, the lyrics in “baseball” were a little bit hard to understand the first couple of times around. So, I will also admit that I cheated again by looking up the lyrics for this one.
One thing that I’ve generally noticed about Hippo Campus’ work is that I will be struck from time to time by their existential and philosophical lyrics because they are contrasted with such easygoing melodies. Somehow this band manages to take soulful lyrics and place them inside of awesome, head-nodding indie rock. Take this verse, for example, which jumped out at me because of how incredibly relatable it is:
“There’s something fiction ‘bout the way that reality’s going.
Seems like the chakra’s playing hopscotch, anxiety growing.
Some cordial framework of the sunset a yellow made out of gray.
My bones are tired of the body the woke me up today.”
Hippo Campus is one of those bands who has a very specific sound, even though each song stands alone as performed very well in its own right. That being said, the second song on this new release acts as a perfect bridge (or filler) to complete the short-but-sweet thirteen-minute experience of the three track EP. The song, “traveler,” is probably not going to be one of their greatest hits, yet they are still able to produce a great song that acts a perfect segue into the title track and last song on the EP, “warm glow.”
One of the many other cool things about this band is their ability to highlight the diversity of their sound, and this is wholly displayed in “warm glow.” After listening to the first two catchy and upbeat songs on the EP, I was expecting another one of their classic dance-like-no-one’s-watching tunes. Then, all of a sudden, they hit me with what is likely their most somber song to date. “warm glow” makes for one of those songs that is perfect for listening while laying down in a grassy open field, just stargazing as you pop in some headphones and zone out. Two-thirds of the way through the song, they begin the resounding chorus:
Arms length, shoulders wide,
looking for a fight,
peace sign, getting by,
people, we’ll be alright.
I think that this band is indestructibly contemporary. Is it just me, or is there just a hint of social activism in the defiant tone of this chorus’ lyrics? Hippo Campus never ceases to amaze me with their intelligent lyrics and, now, even their political awareness. I can’t wait to see them live for the second time in February at the Vic Theatre. Did I fail to mention that they put on an incredible live performance?
— Noah Slowik. Fiction Editor and Music Blogger