Mistakes. Anxious. Doubt. Why Even Try. Think It Over. A list that makes quite the despairing, bleak and hopeless impression, doesn’t it? Heavy. That’s what it comes off as, right? These are some of the track names on new album Bambi, from indie pop-rockers Hippo Campus.
They’re a bunch of fresh-faced 20-somethings from whom you’d expect stories of chasing girls and nascent love and wild partying and messy drinking. The fun stuff, the stupid stuff, and all recounted with a whirlwind-like energy and an unadulterated joy.
That’s just what the band gave us with their 2014 EP Bashful Creatures, and a few years later, on debut album Landmark too. On half of it anyway. There was a curious and unexpected shift in their sound halfway through that album. Their carefree playfulness gave way to something more reflective and subdued, and strangely, it didn’t feel out of place; some of those moments, like “monsoon” and “vacation”, were in fact standouts on Landmark. The band was growing up, more in tune with the real world around them, becoming adults, and it made their material feel all the more real for it.
That line’s been towed through to new album Bambi, on which they’ve struck a fine balance, between wistful, effervescent music that brims with youthful exuberance, and a grounded, more mature, somewhat troubled outlook on life. “It’s about sharing what you’re going through, so maybe someone else will feel less lonely”, says lead singer Jake Luppen of what they hope the album will achieve. To that end, it’s only right that he’s getting it all off his chest, laying out all his cards on the table.
“This head won’t quiet down for a single thought”, he shares through the droplets of electronic bleeps on “anxious”, before “finally breaking open” and finding some peace of mind, the track erupting in a cathartic release. On the title-track, a loungey number built around serene guitars and a stuttering glitch, it’s the all-too-familiar feeling of “I want to run from everything”, but that’s soon erased by the triumphant proclamation of “I’ll be making my own way now”. Tugs-of-war, little wrestling matches with inner demons happen all through Bambi, and with any wrestling match, there has to be a winner. Luppen will be damned if it isn’t him.
Bambi opens with the beatless “mistakes”, humming with warm synths, a dreamy trumpet shining through like the gold rays of a rising sun on a misty morning. It ends on a similar note, the second half of closer “Passenger” a meditative, comforting soundscape, full of optimism. This isn’t music about the fun, stupid stuff anymore. This is music about the important things: finding steady footing in a shaky world, being confused and unsure and not understanding everything, and knowing that that’s alright. It’s about “searching for a better something”.