Behold, the day has come. We’ve been blessed with some stellar new music from Hippo Campus, Black Country, New Road, Mitski, and more today. Let’s get down to business and talk about the new Hippo Campus album, LP3.
I’m sorry but we have to start on a sad note. The pandemic rages on and another tour is taken from the ears of today. Hippo Campus have delayed their UK tour until May this year so my pleas were obviously not heard; now they’ll be gracing The Garage on May 9th. Worryingly, this is the night before my Quantum Physics exam so if you are my quantum lecturer and you’re reading this – of course I won’t go see one of my favourite bands who only come to the UK once every few years the night before your exam. This was going to be a joint album and gig review, but the band must’ve read the two single reviews of their tracks and wanted more of my words, so it’ll just be the album review for now. Wait patiently for the gig in May, people.
LP3 is the culmination of nine years of Hippo Campus: it is the journey to where they are today, and the fans that they’ve brought along with them. I first listened to the band in 2017 when their breakout hit ‘South’ was recommended to me on the YouTube sidebar. I was drawn in by lead singer Jake Luppen’s versatile vocals, guitarist Nathan Stocker’s twinkling riffs, bassist Zach Sutton’s driving basslines, and drummer Whistler Allen’s hypnotic drums. These aspects that made me love the band are still here in LP3 but joined by qualities gained in other works, like the synthesised sounds of second album Bambi and the deep-dive electronic soundscapes of recent EP Good Dog, Bad Dream. This is the basis of the album: growth and maturation while staying true to yourself.
Kicking off with a public safety announcement against faux-adolescent confidence, opening track ‘2 Young 2 Die’ builds from a lone horn from trumpet player DeCarlo Jackson up into one of my favourite choruses of the album featuring ethereal vocals, uber- compressed drums and synths that rival tracks from Bambi. Jackson and Stocker shine on this album. Trumpet and guitar riffs no longer give each other space as was the case on previous records, now they interplay beautifully; twirling and lacing in and out of sync with the perfection of prima ballerinas, most impressively heard in ‘Scorpio’.
I’d like to stop and take time to give a special mention to one of my top tracks of the album, ‘Bang Bang’. It uses stop time accents and polyrhythmic vocals, two of my top 5 musical techniques that I’m a complete sucker for. I’m excited to see the band live in May to see who sings the other of the two interlocking vocal lines in the last chorus with Luppen after I surprisingly learnt Allen and Stocker sing when I saw the band in Newcastle back in 2019. On the stops, they work flawlessly to enhance the drop into the chorus. For the entire album, the band have masterfully utilised volume changes to transform incredibly sparse sections into massive stadium filling soundscapes.
Closing the album is my favourite track, ‘Understand’. Reminiscent of ‘Buttercup’ which ended first album Landmark, ‘ Understand’ melds old and new sounds, completing the journey that the album embarked on. “I don’t care what we are, it just has to work / Where we end is something far / Something hard to understand” says Luppen in the chorus, reaching an acceptance of powerlessness against the future but promising to live happily in the moment. The best sound on the record is what seems like something falling off the drum kit at the start of the guitar solo, it could be skilful drumming from Allen or a lucky sample of a tumble in the studio. Whatever it is, it’s so satisfying to listen to – trust the process. Listening to that sound so much also lets me listen to Stocker’s guitar solo, a soft, shimmering masterpiece. This is Hippo Campus at their best.