While their new EP may be titled Wasteland, you won’t get any wasteful or distasteful elements from Hippo Campus as they showcase what is at the heart of the indie-rock genre. Devoid of any flashy synth or keyboard, though with some well-placed trumpet, the band has produced five tight tracks that masterfully remind listeners of the power that comes from a well-crafted guitar or drum riff. It’s definitely a departure from their 2022 full-length release, LP3, but the risk is paying off.
Cohesiveness shines as the instrumentals alone can portray the vast range of emotions just as well as the lyrics do. From sweet lovesickness to aching heartbreak, the band covers significant ground. You could isolate their guitars on any track and understand the exact mood dripping from the song as a whole. The strings slowly stroll along with melancholy piano on ‘Probably,’ bringing us the sad mysteries that complete any breakup, such as the thought that ‘he’ll probably kiss her like I used to…’ and that ‘I’ll never love another like you, probably…’ Whether that’s for better or worse, we don’t know, but we do know that they can switch things up with a song like ‘Moonshine,’ which gives us short, fast-paced and high-pitched guitar paired with a staccato drum track that skips along with the heart of the entranced lover in the tune.
Not only are Hippo Campus showing off their unity through this writing and production, they’re also flaunting their experience and restraint with their dynamics. It sounds picky, but one of my biggest complaints with the mellow, jam sesh side of indie comes from artists not working to keep us listeners engaged. Tease me with a whisper in the bridge or at least wake me up with a shout in the chorus, otherwise I’m headed out the door. It looks like these lads feel the same way as they expertly utilise rise and fall in each track, drawing us in and pushing us back out, knowing precisely when to choose which element. In a word, Hippo Campus have matured.
Similarly, the vocals out of Jake Luppen and Nathan Stocker are well controlled, especially in a song like ‘Yippie Ki Yay’ (my favourite off the EP). Smoothing out in the pre-chorus, lowering to a whisper in the bridge, then coming out of the gates strong and even verging on emotional breaks at some points in the chorus.
We’ve always known that Hippo Campus are indie mainstays, and Wasteland is proof of why. No song feels under cooked, nor is the band gluttonous with their use of any tool at their disposal, from drums to horns. It’s a testament to the band’s growth over the last six years: they’ve been there and done that with the youthful dance tracks, and now they’re ready for us to get them out from the kids’ table. Their new spot is well-earned.
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Wasteland is available today wherever you stream music. Pick up a copy directly from the band over on Bandcamp.