The Minnesota-bred indie rock band Hippo Campus is back with its sophomore LP, Bambi. After only a year since the release of its debut album, Landmark, the group has shifted lanes from bright classic indie into a more robotic, hipster-sounding territory.
Bambi starts off with the ethereal track “Mistakes.” The meditative sounds and the chanting lyrics are reminiscent of the biblical tale of Adam and Eve. The song’s lyrics warn of an eerie relationship before leading into a deep-voiced chorus, repeating the phrase “sometimes, mistakes.”
The track “Anxious,” which takes on a more electric feel, heavily mirrors the familiar sound of Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreaks with the intermittent beeps and drums. This song was written by the band’s bassist, Zach Sutton, who had thus far not composed lyrics on a Hippo Campus album. The song features refreshing rim hits and clear bass lines that break up the computerized tones to intertwine the band’s indie rock and electronic moods.
A bit more abrasive-Vampire-Weekend-sounding, “Doubt” starts with a heavy pop sound that tangents from the mellow vibe the album provides thus far. The chorus transitions into a velvety fusion of airy, choral vocals and cloudy instrumentals. The lyrics of the song show a questioning of love, saying, “Who can say you’re the one / And never doubt it.”
“Think It Over” utilizes a kind of background buzzing that enacts nervousness in listeners, mixing a delicate piano melody with a feedback-heavy intro. The words of the song are more poetic than the other tracks — it’s hard to follow what exactly they’re talking about, but in an artistic way. The song seems open for interpretation, offering ambiguous lyrics to listeners so that they can reflect and connect on their own wavelength.
The album builds in intensity with the song “Bubbles” as it breaks into garage-rock drumming and thrashy guitar. This track starts with a math-rock guitar repetition and echoey lyrics. But, it quickly takes on a punk intermission with a brief clamor of drums and edgy vocals before calming back down into the zen mood.
One of the album’s standout tracks is “Golden,” which carries an upbeat instrumental vibe along smooth vocals. The drums roll along the pre-chorus and carry the tone of the classic Hippo Campus indie rock sound. “Golden” is one of the singles off this album, released just before Bambi came out in its entirety. Lead singer Jake Luppen shows off his falsetto vocal range widely in this song, ornamenting with silky runs and polished note changes.
The entire album holds the atmospheric indie-rock vibe, which has become popularized by artists such as Tame Impala. It’s a much different sound than the band’s previous album, which holds a brighter, more classic indie-rock tone.
The combination of electronic beats, soft guitar and alternative vocals provides for an interesting listening experience for those who are used to Hippo Campus’ previous style. While the experimentation is welcomed, it was comforting to hear songs, such as “Why Even Try,” which reflect its former sound — mixed with a strangely pleasant Owl City-meets-Death Cab For Cutie emulation.
Bambi pulls inspiration from a wide variety of artists in the music industry, whether intentional or not, yet still manages to make the sound its own. The change of pace may be one to get used to for purist Hippo Campus fans, but by the sounds of it, it definitely won’t take long.