REVIEW | Hippo Campus — Landmark


By Maddy Siiter and Sarah Bel Kloetzke




  1. An event, discovery, or change marking an important stage or turning point in something
  1. an object or feature of a landscape or town that is easily seen and recognized from a distance, especially one that enables someone to establish their location


Sarah Bel: The motivation or inspiration for Hippo Campus to name their debut album Landmark could’ve been anything, but I don’t think it’s necessarily right to define the album as a turning point.

If Landmark was a landmark it would be that propane tank in New York that’s painted like a giant Prozac pill.


Maddy: The record opens with “Sun Veins,” a short melody of distorted vocals and promise. What follows doesn’t exactly match in tone or excitement of what’s to come.

With that fuzzy, glitchy 1:18 intro, I was expecting some change or growth from the Hippo Campus boys: fewer whimsical guitar riffs and fewer songs that paint a scene of a romantically dramatic couple in some art school parking lot at dusk. Since their formation in 2013, they’ve certainly accomplished and experienced enough for some change in sound. The Twin Cities-native boys have made appearances at South by Southwest, Lollapalooza, and the 2016 Rock the Garden in Minneapolis. Simply put: their successful few years going from a “high school band” to “national band” does not translate with the release of Landmark. We’re still timidly stuck between the eras of Bashful Creatures and Souls and the future.


Sarah Bel: “Sun Veins” was just kind of annoying to me; it didn’t give me a great first impression of the album. That worked to the band’s advantage in this case, though, because it made the initial hit of “Way It Goes” much sweeter to me. The best things Hippo Campus have always had to offer are served in the verses of this song. Groovy, citrusy instrumentals and dynamic vocal performance. I love it. Of course I love it, though, because I love their earlier releases.

But two things disappoint me in this track. The first is the chorus—it could’ve been equally as glorious as the rest of the song, if the effort was put into it. Instead it seems like the verses were written and swooned over by the band before the song was finished. That resulted in a rushed, kinda bland chorus. The second thing is the fact that, again, it doesn’t necessarily strike me as new. I love the song but I expect it from the Bashful Creatures Hippo Campus.

Right away “Vines” freaked me out. Like, I got thirty seconds in and had to start the song over. Something about the smooth, sweeping intro suddenly cutting into staccato vocals completely threw me off. Then, the song goes into a chorus that sounds like something that’s stemmed from The 1975. I’m still struggling to say what exactly my feelings are. I keep picturing it live, what would it sound like live? Filler, I think.

“Epitaph” gives me the same feeling. The only thing I can bring myself to pay attention to is the bridge, and overall I’m left feeling alienated. It’s just not Hippo Campus—but isn’t that what I want? I’m struggling to find a balance between being let down by typical Hippo Campus songs and being accosted by almost too new and frontier-like ones.


Maddy: The beginning of “Epitaph” has some Bon Iver influence, which is somewhat captivating, but not enough to completely catch me in the way Justin Vernon can, but I still liked it.


Sarah Bel: The only thing that jerks me back into paying attention after some time is “Western Kids.” I’m entertained, bopping along for a while. I really like the random bursts of—what? synthed-up guitar? And I appreciate how metro-area-Minnesota most of the lyrics are, when they’re not talking about plastic surgery and going viral. It’s a good song with a cool ending and I like it, but that’s all I can really say.


Maddy: “Western Kids” was the track that freaked me out. I didn’t understand the “I just love this I swear I’ll go viral” line. I thought we were over technology references both sincerely and ironically in music now. It’s 2017.

The alluring lyrics towards youth typical to Hippo Campus are somewhat still present on Landmark and it’s comforting. In “Poems”, the one song that initially stood out to me lyrically, Luppen sings, “An actress orphaned by the social constructs of her art school / A victim of their esoteric rule / So pretentious that she almost thought it was cool.” The song falls flat when the chorus is a looping succession of “La, la la la la’s,” like they didn’t quite feel like coming up with some more words.


Sarah Bel: There’s a lot of hype about “Monsoon”—the single that has been marketed as The Slow Pretty Song from the album, but I feel like all of that hype and attention should be bestowed upon “Poems” instead. Luppen’s vocals are fantastic. I’m not even upset about the “La la la” chorus, since it’s been so well done. The absolute best part of the song, though, is the second verse on the two-minute mark. It’s hard-hitting and almost holy sounding, and everything I wanted new Hippo Campus to be.

The first 11 seconds of “Vacation” are the best 11 seconds of the album, I think. I also appreciate the clear enunciation of the lyrics going on in the song—something uncommon from Hippo Campus. I remember the Friday morning of Landmark’s release I was listening to a girl in my homeroom class complain that she didn’t understand a thing sung on “Tuesday.” But those 11 seconds of “Vacation.” Fantastic. The only other 11 seconds in the album that could contend with “Vacation” for title of “Best 11 Seconds of Landmark” are the first 11 seconds of “Boyish.” That was the only single I listened to before the album’s full release and I loved it with a passion back in October, and it’s still one of my favorite songs to come from Landmark. But those 11 seconds though.

I think the things I’m most clinging to after listening to this album are the lyrics. Some really, really great Instagram-caption-worthy lyrics came out of Landmark. Like, “I’m a poor excuse for poetry / trying to play it cool” or “Pearly, pretty prize, and a ribbon box of sighs in a collared shirt” or “Your velvet touch sends me back to the moon.”

Though, other lyrics give me the urge to sit the members of Hippo Campus down and yell “Leave these girls alone!”

Despite all of my un-pinpoint-able feelings about the album, I can’t help but be proud of Hippo Campus. They’re pulling Minnesota music more into the spotlight and it’s cool to see a band raised and worshiped here doing things like playing Conan multiple times and headlining a tour of the UK. Unfortunately, I’ve been disappointed by Landmark.


Maddy: I do agree; it’s awesome a few Minnesota boys are shedding light in and to a music scene we all love. While the album is decent surface-level, a landmark release it is certainly not.

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