Hippo Campus’s third studio album, cleverly titled “LP3,” takes a step up in the musical spectrum while taking a step away from the sound that brought them to light in the late 2010s. The record sets a new path for the band, but the quality of future efforts seems to be left in doubt.
With a larger focus on the pop sounds, the indie band seems to have abandoned their indie-rock roots. “LP3” features a myriad of synthesized sounds and groovy percussions. Although there are still some remnants of their more rock-inspired sounds in songs like “Ashtray” and “Semi-Pro,” guitar riffs and live instrumentals take a back seat to in-studio digital effects and arrangements. Taking cues from other indie-rock turned art-pop bands such as Vampire Weekend in songs like “Ride or Die,” the band shows a glimpse of potential genius that can only come through after pushing their own boundaries.
Nonetheless, the change in sound has not detracted from Hippo Campus’s musical achievement. “LP3” demonstrates a maturing and evolution that is very welcome. From being one of the many indie-rock acts that subscribed to a generic, cookie cutter sound, the band has now taken a step toward their own direction. The layered and complexity of their new record reflects a deeper understanding of themselves and their music.
Lyrically, front man Jake Luppen takes an introspective dive into his relationships, struggles and emotions. Luppen’s mysterious lyrics paint a picture of self-reflection and an almost cathartic coming of age retelling of his journey into adulthood. The lyrics are a step up from his previous work, where he found himself describing the world around him and his experiences. In “LP3” he continues his lyrical journey inward.
While an evolving sound is always welcome, especially for a band that struggled to differentiate their sound from similar acts, evolution is not always without flaws. While “LP3” is innovative and refreshing it also leaves behind a lot of the elements that popularized the band. There are no radio-hits and no clear standouts. This is not inherently bad, it points to a cohesive and unified record. However, fans that appreciated the band’s previous sound will find themselves struggling if they do not have enough of an understanding of the art-pop genre.
The songs on the record flow from one to another without much obstruction and they seem to all be small cogs in a larger machine. However, the complexity and often abstract sounds of the record seem to alienate the listener. As with most art-pop records, “LP3’s” intricacy often gets in the way of the enjoyment. On one hand, the record at its best echoes the band’s old music with new influences that reminisce of bands like MGMT and Vampire Weekend. On the other hand, the record at its worse seems to take cues from low-quality acts like the Chainsmokers.
“LP3” is a welcome addition to the Hippo Campus catalogue. It’s a brave and bold step in the right direction. The new, forward looking sound offers a complexity that reflects maturity that is both musical and lyrical. Luppen’s songs are deep introspective cuts of his own changing life. However, the sound seems to have evolved it has also left behind too many of the things that made them popular in the first place. Hippo Campus shoots for the stars but does not quite hit the target. Nonetheless, they show the world that they could hit the target with a little more effort. One can only hope that the record is pointing to a new course where the band will eventually bring back the clever riffs, more melodic approaches to songwriting that they are known for and incorporate these sounds with the new soundscapes explored in this album.