The indie rock band from St. Paul continues to evolve with a cohesive, well-rounded third album.
Nearly four years after the release of their sophomore album, “Bambi,” Hippo Campus is back on the scene with “LP3.”
Despite its misleadingly-bland title, the album establishes the band as a serious group with lots left to say in the world of indie rock.
Hippo Campus started off as a quintet of St. Paul high schoolers back in 2013. Since then, they’ve made an impressive name for themselves with a solid discography and multiple world tours. In April, after two months of touring for “LP3,” they will return to the Twin Cities to finish off the North American leg of the tour, right where they began almost a decade ago.
“LP3” explores themes of self-discovery, loneliness and star signs while delivering the upbeat sound expected from a Hippo Campus album. With a satisfying amount of songs, there’s enough time to experiment with synths and new instruments while remaining true to their roots of groovy melodies and emotionally-charged lyrics.
Right from the start, the album gets deep with “2 Young 2 Die.” Existential dread has caught like wildfire in these past couple of years; there couldn’t be a better time for a song that ruminates on such a topic. As one of the most sonically unique songs on the album, the first track intertwines dark lyrics with layers of electronic sounds, replicating the feeling of entering young adulthood and having no idea where to go next.
The next track, “Blew Its,” is ambiguous and less lyrically sharp than its predecessor, yet it still manages to move the LP forward. Following “Blew Its” is “Ashtray,” a song that puts the rock in indie rock. Its fast tempo and building bridge are electrifying, making “Ashtray” a contender for the album’s most-anticipated song to hear live in concert.
“Bang Bang” is a gentle, groovy track that marks a transition from more experimental songs to the classic-but-beloved indie rock sound. Synthetic elements are dialed down and replaced with a driving drum beat and catchy chorus. “Semi Pro” continues with this pattern, and the simple, yet sophisticated, melody allows listeners to pay more attention to the cutting lyrics and sports metaphors present throughout the song. While comparing playing ball with troubled careers, “Semi Pro” painfully highlights the phenomenon of abandoned dreams.
The best sing-along track on the album is “Ride or Die.” With a repetitive chorus composing most of the song, it’s easy to learn and likely to get stuck in your head. Fan comments under an accompanying music video note this song’s reminiscence of the Vampire Weekend sound: unsurprising, given both bands closely follow the formula for feel-good indie rock. Though this track doesn’t take many risks, it is undoubtedly catchy, perhaps more so than many other songs on the album.
“Scorpio” sings of the infamously closed-off star sign, expressing jealousy of the ability to laugh off and downplay tough emotions. In between vocal harmonies, a trumpet and piano are played, further blurring the lines between genres and incorporating new elements with the band’s original sound. However, “Scorpio” is outdone by the mid-tempo track that follows: “Listerine.” This song can be best described as a total vibe, the kind of song you listen to while driving with the windows rolled down and the stereo turned up. Its pitched-up vocals scream summer nights and nostalgia.
As the album nears completion, “Boys” proves you can never go wrong with a classic. This exhilarating track relies on four chords and was released back in Oct. 2021, along with the announcement of “LP3”. The song generated lots of excitement from fans who were itching for a full-length album and accompanying tour after a few hard years without much action in the music scene.
Finally, “Understand” showcases Hippo Campus’ songwriting skills with an emotional love letter. The clean vocals exclaim: “I don’t care what we are, it just has to work.” Desperation seeps through the track, and the open-endedness of the lyrics provides a bittersweet yet appropriate ending to this collection of songs.
Though it doesn’t stray too far from the traditional indie rock sound, “LP3” is an all-encompassing album that marks the beginning of an exciting new era for the Minnesota band.