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Album Review // HIPPO CAMPUS ‘Bambi’

Reflecting on the chaos of current times, Hippo Campus set out on the path of sonic explorations and experimentation on their sophomore record, Bambi.

Delving into the themes of mental health and anxieties that we all struggle with in the modern world, Hippo Campus shape a synth-laden and drum machine-heavy realm of layers and textures. Ambitious and more mature, they return with a new creative vision that sees them shift into more sophisticated sounds, without ever losing the vigorous spark that underpinned their earlier material.

Darker and heavier, Bambi is a demanding record but it’s also as graceful and balanced as any other release Hippo Campus have put out since the day they started.

Their new sonic approach surfaces within seconds, as the opener Mistakes graces our eardrums with choir-like parts and an expanding soundscape. The prolonging instrumentals create a mesmerising daze, the kind you know you’re about to get lost in. “I’m not that bad, I make / Mistakes”, we hear in their candid statement.

Thumping electronic beats lure us in on Anxious, opening up a space for Jake Luppen’s vocals to shine. Straightforward as always, the band express their emotions in a stirring way as honest lyrics hit us with the message “Don’t you know you’re not to blame / For feeling” anxious. As the song builds up into an immersive wall of sounds, the contrast between the verse and the chorus shapes one of the best sonic solutions on the entire record. This one is a pure gem.

Soaring on tempo changes and upbeat vocal layers, Doubt is a rhythmic sensation that tells us the story about doubts when it comes to love. The relatable context is what Hippo Campus have always striven for, and this track provides yet another chance for self-reflection.

Saturated with sonic variations, the album sees the band experiment with their sound and wander off to the places they have never visited before whilst remaining truly themselves. Cultivating self-awareness with deep introspection, they further tackle mental health issues on the titular track, Bambi. Despite exploring darker sonic terrain, the song still flows on a euphoric beat and Luppen’s warm vocals showing true growth in their songwriting. Typical for the band juxtaposition of a joyous soundscape with a heavier lyrical content is a mirror to the human fragility and the emotional experiences they go through. It is a real beauty.

And there’s Bubbles, an absolute masterpiece that is a testament to their diverse songcraft skills. Thriving on lyrical twists and a melodic disruption, the track is a rollercoaster of emotions and sounds that is sure to make you feel everything at once.

Elsewhere on the record, hazy Why Even Try strikes with some exquisite drumwork, whilst Think It Over brings forth the sugar-coated vocals that align with mellow melodies to create a truly tender moment. Swaying straight into the blissful Golden, we are delighted by its groovy bass lines and crisp guitars before Passenger rounds off our eventful journey through this album.

More toned down but confident in their beliefs, Hippo Campus leave the carefree times of their debut album landmark behind in order to face the reality we live in. By taking the leap and pushing their boundaries, not only do they tell us their stories about their life experiences, but also they reveal some truths about ourselves. In a world where confusion and insecurities dominate our mindsets, they turn to the only thing they know that could soothe our souls, and that of course, is music.