Landmark is the debut album from Hippo Campus. Since their formation and the release of two EPs in 2014 & 2015, Bashful Creatures and South respectively they have rapidly risen to become an unquestionable breakthrough act performing to packed shows around the world and gaining champions such as Zane Lowe and NME to name two.
They consist of Jake Luppen (guitar/vocals), Whistler Allen (drums/vocals), Nathan Stocker (guitar/vocals) and Zach Sutton (bass). The album was written and recorded over the past 12 months and recorded by BJ Burton of Bon Iver and Francis & the Lights) fame and marks a true coming-of-age for this band that are only just old enough to drink legally in the US. The album explores topics such as love, loss, hope, self-doubt, family and friendship amongst others.
All songs are original and have given the band the platform to be experimental with their sound. The band surmised that the album expressed: “One side of the coin seeking honesty, real reflection, therapy. The other a cynical child, utilizing irony to tear down the ship we had worked so hard to build.”
The album begins with Sun Veins which has a kind of voicebox effect to it that gives it a surreal quality and reminded me slightly of the Monkees’ Head album. It stops suddenly and goes into recent single Way It Goes which vocalist Jake Ludden recently explained about: “Basically it’s just us poking fun at ourselves… the way that we kinda worship social media and fads and clothing and everything in those respects. It’s important to laugh at yourself so we figured we’d write a song kinda poking fun at ourselves and everyone around us.” This is jaunty and summery indie-pop. It has a slight undercurrent of Supertramp to this listener and I like the way the song fades away on this one.
Vines has a more idiosyncratic vocal with a fluid melodic synth sound to it. Epitaph has a wistful feel with quirky lyrics: “You’re a dark horse with a knack for pushing boys off a cliff”.
Simple Season has a buoyancy to it that is engaging. It has a lovely youthfulness about it with the lyrics “The simple season is all ours” and reminded me of Edie Brickell’s I Am What I Am. This is a stand-out to me. There are some angelic guitar riffs running throughout this album and Tuesday is no exception. Western Kids has sardonic lyrics and is unashamedly pure pop but works so well with a vibrant feel. This would have worked well on an 80s John Hughes teenage angst film. It makes me feel about 14! Poems has a slow-burning introduction and continues the theme of 80s pop, but it also has a timeless, make-believe quality to it that is emotionally charged.
Monsoon, which was a previous single, has some interesting and clever sound-effects on it. Another dreamlike song that is regretful and sombre (focusing on the death of a family member). Vacation has a country rock feel to it with those ever-fresh vocals but somehow it didn’t seem to go anywhere for me. Boyish, another single is obviously a catchy song (and with story-telling lyrics), I can see this would be a hit but it wasn’t a stand-out track for me. (These were: Way It Goes, Simple Season and Poems). I did, like the way it stopped immediately and then went straight into Interlude, with its faraway vibe before final track Buttercup which although upbeat and with a confident drum beat, again wasn’t as strong as previous songs.
Overall an album with some curious stand-out tracks and some not-so. The Hippo-Campus is the part of the brain that centres on emotion and memory. They certainly appear to have utilised these functions to weave a tapestry of stories into each of their songs, like a book of poems. A resilient, poised first album.