Following the release of their debut EP Bashful Creatures only last year, the American pop-rock band Hippo Campus are back with another, titled South. While the band’s talent clearly shines through in their five new tracks through catchy tunes and strong musical and vocal performances, the lyrics in certain tracks come across as unnecessarily puzzling.
The first track, Close To Gold immediately brings in the lead singer, Jake Luppen’s powerful voice, which remains constantly impressive throughout the EP. The uplifting tune contributes to the feel-good aspect of this song, however the lyrics, which are for the most part very clearly sung, are quite confusing. Ranging from, “The prophets spit fire all through your blood”, to “And Mary had liquor, so passionate”, I, for one couldn’t really comprehend what Hippo Campus was singing about here, and that unfortunately took something away from my enjoyment while listening to this track. Dollar Bill is introduced with an incredibly upbeat guitar riff, which makes you want to listen to the rest of the song. Though the likeable tune is slightly repetitive throughout, this track is one of most enjoyable and memorable ones on this EP.
South, the title track, starts off strong with the music, but, much like, Close To Gold, loses out due to vague, incomprehensible lyrics. However, unlike the other tracks, South also uses harmonised vocals from Nathan Stocker (guitar) and Whistler Allen (drums) in the bridge of the song, which gives it a different edge. Overall, however, the song doesn’t really stand out in the EP, and neither does Violet, the penultimate track, which is a little too guitar-heavy for my liking, and sounds slightly strained compared to the other songs.
The Halocline, which is the final track, has a completely different vibe from the rest of the songs on the EP: while the others very prominently emphasise the musical capabilities of the band, and are upbeat and lively, this song is much slower and more focused on the vocals and lyrics. Unlike the rest of the EP, it brings about a more calm and relaxing mood. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the lead singer spoke about the message of this song for the band: “The Halocline literally means the illusion of oxygen in water typically seen by scuba divers… It serves as a metaphor for us that many of the things we were taught about the world growing up have been falsehoods.” While this metaphor sounds impressive enough, unfortunately, it isn’t very-well brought out in what could have been an absolutely stand-out song in the EP. Here, once again, Hippo Campus opted for rather vague lyrics, some of which I couldn’t trace back to what the song was allegedly meant to be about. Nonetheless, this song is still the most unusual one on the album, and definitely one which enchants the listener with its mild tune, at least until the unnecessary breakout of more powerful guitar chords and a loud yelling of the chorus near the end of the track, which in my opinion, distracts from the beauty The Halocline initially brought in.
Overall, while South may be considered more incoherent compared to Hippo Campus’s first EP, Bashful Creatures, it is worth mentioning that this talented group of teenagers have barely started out on their journey in the music industry, with this only being their second EP. Despite some disappointment due to the contrast between the brilliant tunes and the muddling lyrics in most tracks, I am, without a doubt, looking forward to a full-length album, which would perhaps showcase the potential of this pop-rock band even better.
Check out the EP in full below.