By Cassie Osvatics
Since forming in 2013, though still relatively young with band members in their early 20s, the St. Paul, Minnesota, band Hippo Campus has done a good bit of growing up, going from being the opener to headlining tours to performances at SXSW, Lollapalooza and on Conan.
While I haven’t been a fan from their start, I still remember the first time I heard their music. I was planning a road trip for early August of 2015 that would eventually end in Minnesota at the Chipotle Cultivate music festival in Loring Park, not far from Hippo Campus’s home town.
Of the bands at the fairly small festival, Hippo Campus was not one I was familiar with so I began to delve into their EP Bashful Creatures, released February 24 of that year. I was immediately hooked by their shockingly well developed lyrics, the fun that came along with each song and the raw power packed behind lead singer Jake Luppen’s voice.
Their performance at Chipotle Cultivate did not disappoint. Needless to say, their new album Landmark, released exactly two years after their EP, was something I’ve really looked forward and was well worth the excitement.
The album experiments a little more than their EP with vocal distortion and Luppen using more falsetto, something we got a little taste of on their single “Boyish.” However, what I missed on this album was the lower tones that Luppen sang in on their EP, regardless, Landmark is a testament to his incredible vocal range.
The band also slowed it down a bit on tracks like “Vacation,” “Monsoon,” “Poems” and my personal favorite from the album, “Epitaph.” If you’re not familiar with what an epitaph is, it is often the inscription on a tombstone or a poem for the dead. Taking the later meaning into consideration, “Epitaph” is a sort of poem and refers directly to poetry in the lyrics “I’m a cryptic writer, I’m an ignorant fool, I’m a poor excuse for poetry, trying to play it cool.”
One of the more unique parts of the album is the cover art and the way they were able to encapsulate elements from each song. They did the same with each one of their singles off of the album: “Boyish,” had an apricot tree on the front of the single cover, “The Way it Goes” had a record and Doc Martins and “Monsoon,” had a calendar, each image drawn from the song lyrics.
With the cover of the album, those images are still present but now we see the full picture of a room with the box of red wine from “Tuesday,” a collared shirt from “Poems,” mountains in the distance from “Vacation” and so on. This culmination of images is a sort of representation of how the stories in each song intermingle with one another. The artwork as a whole has such profound and bold colors and is a refreshing change from the typical band picture or band name on the cover of albums.
In its entirety, the album has a sense of youth and the loss of it. Being the same age as the band, as cheesy as it sounds, this album speaks to so much of this time in my life and this time in anyone’s life while we’re figuring it all out and making a lot of mistakes, and yet they escape mediocrity. If they’ve shown this much progress in these past two years, I can’t wait to see what they come up with in the next two.
Featured Photo Credit: Jake Luppen, lead singer of Hippo Campus, charms fans during their performance opening for Saint Motel at 9:30 Club. (Cassie Osvatics/Bloc Reporter)
Cassie Osvatics is a senior English major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.