Hippo Campus – Bambi
Released September 28, 2018
Since their debut in 2013, Hippo Campus has given us the perfect music to play on a Sunday picnic or a nice day at the beach. The indie band from St. Paul has been successful in creating their own light-hearted, surfer-esque sound. However, on this newest release, the band begins to stray from their signature sound towards uncharted territory.
Bambi begins in a very similar manner to their previous album, Landmark. The beginning track starts with a slow, synthy crawl leading up to gloomy filtered vocals. But where Landmark broke away towards the bright upbeat tune that is “Way It Goes,” Bambi stays dark. Much of the album sounds like the band members picked up a random synthesizer, and just went with it. That synth in question turned out to be the Roland Juno-60. It’s featured all over the album, in a wide variety of ways.
At first, the new influences on Hippo Campus are alarming. A digital sound seems so foreign to a group of Midwestern indie rockers, but yet it fits so well. The title track is a perfect pairing of new found influences on an old sound. The synth features prominently on “Bambi” but is styled in a way that helps build on the chill aesthetic of Hippo Campus.
This is the group’s first release under the Transgressive Records label. Based in London, the company’s roster includes top indie names like Regina Spektor, Alvvays, and The Shins. The album was produced by BJ Burton, who also produced their previous album, Landmark. Burton has worked alongside other indie artists like Bon Iver and Sylvan Esso.
This album shows a successful progression in the band’s work. It’s their most serious and darkest album yet. Just by view of the cover art, you can tell how different this album is for the group. This is a molded, darker, more mature Hippo Campus, and it definitely shows. The group has shown off their light indie prowess, and now it’s time for them to expand beyond. On this release, the band plays with song structure in new ways, breaking past their ‘verse-chorus-verse-chorus’ pattern into something entirely new. At times, they are able to completely abandon their past style. The track “Why Even Try” sounds like it’s performed by Death Cab For Cutie. The track is melancholic, and singer Jake Luppen sounds more like Ben Gibbard on Transatlantacism, rather than himself in any of his works.
At times, the album feels mangled and misguided. “Doubt” is one of the tracks where the new found sound doesn’t fit. The saw-like synth cuts through the song, doing more harm than good for it. There are great parts of this album that stand out and are a great example of the leaps the band is taking with this new work, but there are also so many parts that blend together into monotony. Tracks like “Honestly” and “Golden” aren’t bad, but they aren’t noteworthy either and don’t add much else to the album as a whole. Even with its pitfalls, Bambi is overall a good album with a lot of highlights and makes a nice addition to the ever-growing Hippo Campus discography.