March 6, 2023

Are Hippo Campus’s Best Days Behind Them?

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On Feb. 21, Hippo Campus released their new single “Kick in the Teeth,” a quick bite of a song that is less than three minutes, yet feels too long. The single comes in anticipation of the indie rock band’s new EP Wasteland, which will be released on April 14. “Kick in the Teeth” feels lazier than the band’s usual summer sound; could it be Hippo Campus ready to try a new style, or a sign that they’ve run out of creative steam?

“Kick in the Teeth” sounds like it was written in a class on how to write a song — I got sick of it after only getting through the first half of this article. The chord progression is overdone, strung together with a simple “AABB” rhyme scheme, where each pair of lines predictably rhymes with itself. The lyrics themselves are playful yet plain, as the singer sings about throwing back beers and his lover dancing in his sweatshirt, throwing simple imagery into the acoustic mix. 

There are some remnants of the band’s experimental guitar style toward the end of the song. The guitar parts don’t revive the song, however, but rather make me wish I was listening to a different Hippo Campus song. The horns in the second half similarly do little for the song’s energy, and nobody would notice if the melody was replaced with that of a campfire song. 

That being said, I typically love the music that Hippo Campus puts out. “Kick in the Teeth” is an exception to the band’s usual upbeat indie feel and unique sound. The group has a hefty discography, with five albums and four EPs since their first EP Bashful Creatures in 2015. Their most recognizable songs might be “Buttercup” from Landmark (2017) and “Bambi” from the album of the same name (2018). Although these songs may not be musically groundbreaking, they are fresh and electric staples of late 2010s indie rock. Other highlights and favorites of mine by the band are “warm glow” off warm glow (2017) and “Ease Up Kid – Demo” off Demos II (2019).

Looking at the years each of those albums were released, you might think that Hippo Campus’s best works are behind them, but even their Feb. 2022 album LP3 is fresher and meatier than their new single. At Hippo Campus’s best, they produce the ideal summer driving songs, songs for blue-sky days in Ithaca and “just got an A on my paper” songs. Even their slower moments are often thoughtful and romantic. Each previous album has been a hit, ranging from softer, pensive pieces to faster upbeat rock songs perfect for an indie movie soundtrack.

Hopefully, “Kick in the Teeth” will be a standalone flop for Hippo Campus’s new EP. The band has carved out a signature sound that has garnered a successful following, with over 2.5 million monthly listeners on Spotify. The single’s message is fun yet shallow, as the chorus plays, “So when you go home could you think about me? / I’m about as lonely as a cowboy can be / And a night without you’s a kick in the teeth / So when you go home could you think about me?” The lyrics may not be deep, but they are reminiscent of Hippo Campus’s feel-good style, which gives me a sliver of hope for the upcoming EP.

Even if Hippo Campus returns to their electric roots with the remaining four tracks in the EP, four out of five hits is still only a B-. But, the decision is yet to be made if Hippo Campus has left its best creative days in the past. I’ll still be listening to Wasteland when it comes out and praying for fresher musical developments.

Kiki Plowe is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].