Review Summary: Beachy, Smooth, Rhythmic, and Passionate. Hippo Campus brings it home with their debut album.
After the last two weeks of listening to “Landmark”, there is both a lot to be said and nothing to be said. Hippo Campus hails from St. Paul, Minnesota where all four members of the band attended high school together. They have been in several other bands until 2013 when the four members came together to form Hippo Campus. “Landmark” is a beachy, easy, and smooth listen from first to the last song. Each song is well written and all the instrumental and vocal harmonies are seamlessly woven together, to make it seem like you are surfing on butter.
The best way to break this album is into four (and a half) chunks. The first two songs, “Sun Veins” and “Way it Goes” are my personal favorite pair of songs. The intro, one minute, the song has a great build into its partner song. “Way it Goes” is just a majestic song. The jazz influence and psychedelic influences are spot on. The songs just make you want to bop your head the whole time. After “Way it Goes”, we have “Vines”. Another song that really captures what “Way it Goes” was going for. This song is much more indie pop than the last one but is well written. Next, and last we have “Epitaph,” A cute love song with a smooth and easy tone so you can follow it very easily. The song also seems to have a progressive rock influence since it has a slow build to the chorus. The next set of songs we have “Simple Season,” “Tuesday,” and “Western Kids.” These songs take you away from the beachy vibe, and now into a more of a Sunday car ride or rainy day mood. It’s just a different type of indie pop.
“Simple Season” is my favorite from the three because it has an angelic feel to it. Just feels like you are getting lost in the clouds. The winding instrumentals and the echoing vocals just keep you wanting more. “Tuesday” it’s the same feeling as “Simple Season”, but from a different perspective. The there is a sort of drunken/swirling feel to it. The singer is the best part of this song. He keeps is vocals the right pitch just so you know what he is thinking about. “Western Kids,” is a great song, but there is a change of pace. It feels like this song shouldn’t have been where it was. But the song has a great speed to it and feel to it. Keeping with the same vibe. Next, we have “Poems,” “Monsoon,” and “Vacation”. Another shift in mood has occurred, now we are getting into more music that has a sad sort of tone to it. Best for a rainy day. “Poems,” is a love song, without being a love song. The song is more of a reflection on the past and the instrumentals really play along with it. The light guitar work and drums help drive it forward.
“Monsoon” is a nice slow song with amazing vocals on it. But from an acoustic point of view, they could have done a much better job. The song just doesn’t have the punch that the rest of the album has. Lastly, we have "vacation", my favorite standalone song on the album. The song feels like it's dragging on, but not in a bad way. The instrumentals, especially the drums, keep this pace going. The song just feels like a song where you're moving, but it’s a process you don’t exactly want to do. Everything plays a great role in it. In my eyes the most well written and produced song. Now, we get into why there are four and a half sections. The last three songs: “Boyish,” “Interlude,” and “Buttercup,” are the most awkwardly placed songs on the album. “Boyish is a fast moving song with a great drum punch and trumpet section. The song wants you to get up and move and there is no reason not to. Next, we have the Interlude, but it's trying to take “Boyish” and slow everything down again. Which then leads into “Buttercup,” a song that is cute and cuddly. But has no need to be where it is. A song like “Monsoon” should have been placed here, not “Buttercup.”
Overall the album has a great deal of passion put into it. The instrumentals are well written and the vocals are extremely well done. There really isn’t a dull moment on the album. The album has a great idea going for it. It tells a story of a love life, and of kids wanting to move away into a big city. Each section plays to your emotions and helps drive this story along. But, the ordering of the last few songs signifies the record's lack of cohesion.