Bambi: A Hippo Campus Album Review
by scout stewart
on september 28th, the minnesota-native quintet hippo campus – comprised of jake “turntan” luppen, zach “espo” sutton, nathan “stitches” stocker, whistler “beans” isaiah allen, and de facto fifth member decarlo jackson – released their sophomore lp entitled bambi, a heart-thumping collection of eclectic instrumental marriages reminiscent of its breakout older sibling landmark, but with a bolder, edgier rawness to its experimental sounds and sentiments.
hippo campus established themselves as a riff-slinging, percussion-forward indie-rock group with several ep’s that date back to 2014. their gut-tugging melodic formula eventually set the stage for their first-time lp landmark, slowing down and integrating more dreamy, brooding synth-laden runs into their otherwise sunny and skippy compositions. paired with the band’s deft grasp on linguistics and interpretive lyricism, this subtle alteration in (or, more appropriately, addition to) the structure that was hippo campus’ already-spunky sound made it clear that the group was well-skilled in constructing a relatable narrative, their stylistically-varying combination of new vs. old complementing luppen’s sung poetics about the whiplashing emotional changes and revelations that come with growing up.
on the surface, bambi may then read as a disappointment to those coming in fully expectant of the typical indie-flared skittishness hippo campus is known for in hits like "opportunistic," "simple season," and "traveler." however, where one becomes aware of any stylistic changes also exists a point of recognition where it is clear how deliberately stark in contrast the genre differences throughout the album present themselves to be. with a syncopated synth pattern skipping over luppen's equally hoppy intervals in “doubt," the song flirts heavily with a pop-rock tone saved only by allen's cymbal-ticking percussive presence. this dreamy number sets up for a somewhat drastic shift heard later in "bubbles," where a downbeat, bluesy repetitiveness in the guitar line beats against fizzy vocals and a padded beat, only to explode into a nearly-incomprehensible rollercoaster of punky distortion before abruptly snapping back to its original line.
the loose, intentionally temperamental nature of bambi's musicality presents a clear sense of uncertainty when one is posed to assess it categorically; its intra-diversity signified by each track, in that they all consist of aspects from multiple genres. the clashing combination of richness and distortion within every song then begs for them all to become their own individual, dynamic movements of sorts, exemplified even in the jarring nature of the between-song transitions (in comparison to the overall sequential flow of its predecessor, landmark).
this inevitably drives one to dig into the record’s lyrical thematics if they wish to find any sense of cohesion across its entirety, a job that is made surprisingly simple when given this album’s refreshingly straightforward messages. its namesake single serves as the epitome of their candidness with the entire project, its stripped-back, hip-hoppy brass instrumentals and buttery half-stepped falsettos playing an atypical supporting role to its emotionally expositional lyrics. it’s rare that we catch hippo campus putting forth a non-intricate instrumental to balance out their equally complex wordplay, and yet “bambi” croons a smooth, unforgettably rhythmic tune that softly extends a spotlight to its openly honest meaning. put beside landmark’s enticingly figurative poetics, bambi minces no words in its offerings, its blunt declaration – that navigating one’s sense of relation to others and their own feelings is difficult and blindingly ever-present – reading clear and heart-wrenchingly accessible.
if landmark serves as a testimony to the soul-jerking realization that growing up can hurt in the most beautiful and dissociating of ways, bambi is its broody, confrontational follow-up: the explosively raw, yet tender awareness one has early into young adulthood wherein it is bittersweetly accepted that, in the unavoidable chaos and sporadicalness that swallows us all, the lows of self-reflection always precede the highs. it is an arrayed construction of computerized sounds, twiddling horns, and timely nods to old rock that stick to the back of your ears all day, melting evenly with the sinking relatability of its sentiments – that love is ravishingly fickle, mental illness complexes are painstakingly legitimate, and these peaks and valleys of the human condition will forever push us to grow most genuinely, so long as we take them in stride.
buy tickets to their headlining tour here: http://hippocampus.band/