Warm Glow EP by Hippo Campus

Review by Samantha Schraub

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Hippo Campus never fall short with their delivery of new music. The band consisting of Jake Luppen (vocals/guitar), Nathan Stocker (guitar/vocals), Whistler Allen (drums/backing vocals), and Zach Sutton (bass/backing vocals) have presented something altogether different with their new EP warm glow.  This three-song EP is something new for the band, a cathartic recounting of the feelings that come with growing up and discovering the world on your own for the first time. While the band has presented thought-provoking lyrics accompanied by their usual mellow riffs before, this EP stands out for the Minnesota band. Warm glow is a step forward in the world of indie music, a true landmark that songs can be relatable while retaining personal qualities.

Originally meant to be released as part of Landmark, the long awaited “baseball” kicks off  warm glow with the same high energy heard on Hippo Campus’s earlier Bashful Creatures EP. “baseball” is a brightly crafted song, opening with a punchy guitar riff that echoes throughout the song. The heavier bassline balances the spritely guitar throughout, as if they’re competing in their own game of sport. A slowing down of the percussions and vocals leads back into the chorus reminding the listener that this song is about that bright energy. “baseball” contrasts its cheerful instrumentals with puzzling vocals that tease and provoke. Luppen sings, “I saw a cigarette contend/it was the smell of death that kept strolling in” an opening line that speaks a different truth than the melody offers. However, the song seems to understand this, and offers up the idea that it is blatantly ignoring these darker images. At the heart of “baseball” is the “moon boy/lookin’ jungly/with all his leaves a-growin” resonating a character amidst growing up, trying to push back these anxieties that surround them. Despite the wanting of escape from the negatives life offers, they catch up to the focal character, flipping reality on its head and turning into “somethin’ fiction”. Lyrically, “baseball” is an enticing mouthful. Reciting the lyrics feels like a game is going on in the mouth with the contrasting hard and soft consonants and rounded vowels.

There’s no hesitation jumping into “traveler” as heard through the strong bang of a drum jumpstarting the rest of the instrumentals. The song picks up after the first refrain, becoming more buoyant in the first verse. The quick plucking on the guitar brings a new quality to the song, and with that new sound an infectious rhythm that you cannot resist tapping your foot along to. With the second verse comes forth the intrusive sense of self doubt described by the line “‘Son, where the hell is your head’”. The introspective lyrics reflect a coming of age story reaching fruition with a sudden epiphanous moment. The realization sets in that the “sweet tea and lemonade”, symbols of homeliness and hospitality are more suffocating than they are good.   The drums then kick back in again, thumping quicker and quicker to replicate the sudden anxiety the lyrics describe as this awakening occurs. While it may be easier to fall for the dreaminess of home, “you’ll drown in the ways you set” offers the opinion that home needs to be left. The instrumentals at this point seem to replicate a heavy heartbeat as the voice of the song decidedly becomes a traveler, moving past the anxiety of a “future uncertain” in order to escape what could potentially become a hazardous environment to stay in for a lifetime. The finale of the song is dreamlike, with overlapping vocals, echoing “fresh out of your mother’s house/you’re a traveler now/your heart is heavy”. The short story described in the brief four minutes “traveler” encompasses is why it remains my favorite song on the EP. There’s a magical quality in the way that these lyrics understand the difficulties of growing pains, of leaving home for the first time. “traveler” ends with the opening of “warm glow” to create a seamless transition and connect the two songs in content and in storyline, already offering the idea that “warm glow” is a beacon of hope for what undecided potential the future holds.

“warm glow” starts out softly with gentle vocals and a mellow guitar riff. The heaviness of the opening beats reflect the hazy “smoke-swell” setting over the hill and the burnt out feelings as summer peels away. Reflecting similar themes to “traveler” the lyrics describe the world opening up, the “rose-set road” is open ready to be walked down, the sky is blue and heavy with opportunity, the world is being fixed up just for you. “warm glow” melts down the “anxiety growing” in “baseball” setting the stage for you to get up and leave. The smoke fades and becomes a “warm glow morning soaked in pastel tea”. Summer has officially come to an end and it is time to leave the so-called “peelings” behind. A smooth strum of the guitar fades as the snappy metallic beat of the cymbal picks up and leads into Stocker’s solo. Stocker delicately sings “arms length, shoulders wide/looking for a fight/peace sign, getting by/people, we’ll be alright”. This mantra is the true heart of “warm glow”, a message that can be adapted to be found comforting in any situation. The dreamlike quality of the song returns as Luppen’s vocals soar over top Stocker’s dimming solo. “warm glow” trickles out with one last atmospheric guitar riff and a few bumps of the bass pedal, leaving a warm positivity radiating from the song’s finale.

Listen to Warm Glow EP Here.

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