Indie-rock group Hippo Campus has a funny way of always making its listeners feel on top of the world. It doesn’t matter if it’s one of the Minnesota-based quintet’s blatantly upbeat, serotonin-boosting jams or a toned-down, comforting-instilling ballad — the boys know how to enrapture fans and evoke every positive feeling in the book.
After four EPs and two full-lengths (as well as two demo albums), Hippo Campus is only becoming more cohesive with its sound. Frontman and guitarist Jake Luppen, lead guitarist and co-vocalist Nathan Stocker, bassist and keyboard Zach Sutton, drummer and co-vocalist Whistler Allen and trumpeter DeCarlo Jackson are just five boys putting everything they are into every lyric and chord, but the end result is transformative. Whatever you need at the time, the band can provide.
It’s a tall order to try to rank all of Hippo Campus’ tracks, especially when the band’s music is the textbook definition of “pristine,” but why not give it a go? Here is a definitive ranking of every Hippo Campus song:
49. “Interlude” (Landmark)
The 72-second instrumental, though exquisite, is an unneeded filler. You can’t deny that it’s ambient bliss, though.
48. “No Poms” (Demos II)
Let it be known that this isn’t ranked low because Stocker is the lead vocalist here. The guitars and drums don’t blend as well together as per usual, and it’s a bit too repetitive lyrically. It’s still low-key a banger anyway.
47. “Sun Veins” (Landmark)
There has never been a more seamless transition. “Sun Veins” serves as a prelude to the subsequent “Way It Goes,” and with just five lines and a 78-second run time, it perfectly encapsulates the sensation of getting the taxing questions on your mind finally answered.
46. “Champion” (Demos II)
Hippo Campus really went all “yeehaw” on us, and we’re mostly not complaining. The track is fine in its own right, but Luppen definitely has better vocal performances elsewhere, and the instrumentation becomes tedious after a while.
45. “traveler” (warm glow - EP)
That guitar line from Stocker is incredibly wavy, but it’s almost overwhelming against Luppen’s poetic lyrics. When Stocker does subtle backing vocals alongside Luppen in the pre-chorus and chorus, though, it’s pure magic.
44. “Cellar Door” (Demos II)
Luppen keeps telling himself the girl he’s with is just part of a temporary relationship, even though he realizes near the end he’s basically in love with her. The guitar, bass and drums are all simple and sweet next to Luppen’s honeyed vocals.
43. “Western Kids” (Landmark)
The track is a grand dive into society’s gradual transition to a technology-reliant world, and Luppen’s little “la, las” are infectious. The production, however, is a little here and there.
42. “Honestly” (Bambi)
The intro, where Luppen misses his cue, admits he sucks and Allen jokingly agreeing, “Yes, you do!” is priceless. The track examines the exasperation that can come with self-gratification. When all the boys join in during the chorus, it’ll speed up your heart rate, but the instrumentation doesn’t offer as much as the rest of the discography.
41. “Bubbles” (Bambi)
The track discusses the same theme that permeates most of Bambi: mending broken relationships. The pure chaos from the distortion of Stocker and Sutton’s voices of the bridge alone, not even including the startling drums, is a mood.
40. “Tuesday” (Landmark)
Luppen’s vocals are airy and lovely, and the feel-good vibes are radiating as the lyrics juxtapose that heavily, discussing how unhealthy his casual relationship really is. It hurts to rank “Tuesday” this low, but let’s be honest — every track could be No. 1.
39. “Chapstick” (Demos II)
The track is about sharing an intimate moment with your partner and feeling more alive than ever before. Allen doesn’t even go that hard in terms of vocal execution, yet it’s faultless. Luppen’s harmonies make it even more enticing, too.
38. “Opportunistic” (Bashful Creatures - EP)
Luppen’s pronunciations are convoluted here — though they’re even more so in later projects — and it’s hard to sing along to. A girl named Grace is promising Luppen this is the last time he’ll be seeing her, so he should make it count, but he thinks she’ll be back. The guitar alone moves it up to this point of the ranking.
37. “Why Even Try” (Bambi)
The opening line of “When I forgot you, you came to mind” is utter genius. The track scrutinizes, yet again, the effects of an unfixable relationship and how it feels when you realize it’ll never be the same. The smooth electric guitar blends too well with the equally superb drumming.
36. “Joy” (Demos II)
This is perfect background music for when you need to deliberate: the acoustic guitar is subtle but stimulative while Luppen’s gorgeous vocals could seemingly lift you out of any problem. A relationship is ending, but the track’s vibe is strangely hopeful.
35. “Sula” (Tarzan Reject - EP)
Referencing the Toni Morrison novel of the same name; “Sula” is about the titular character and how her evil ways don’t affect the way Luppen feels about her because he’s going to wait for her regardless. The outro is straight serotonin.
34. “Sophie So” (Bashful Creatures - EP)
The girl who said she wouldn’t be back lied — because here she is. The guitar tone is absolute fire, and the way all the boys’ voices blend together faultlessly in the outro is euphoric.
33. “Ease Up Kid” (Demos II)
Doesn’t that guitar just sound like it belongs on the soundtrack of your life? The track is a reminder from the band that everything gets better with time. What’s worrying you now won’t matter at all someday, and it’s best to find something to cling to rather than dwell. You’ll probably cry (in a good way).
32. “Bashful Creatures” (Bashful Creatures - EP)
The message is straightforward: don’t punish yourself nor hide any of your true traits because you’re scared of how others perceive you. No one actually cares. As previously mentioned, when all the boys sing together, as they do here in the outro, it’s unmatched. The guitar line is heavenly, too.
31. “Think It Over” (Bambi)
Luppen wants his girl to take all the time she needs to ponder what seems to be a massive decision, most likely about the fate of their relationship. The synths are dreary yet invigorating, creating their own indie-rock heaven.
30. “Close To Gold” (South - EP)
If anyone says Luppen doesn’t have range, play “Close To Gold” for them. While he usually sings in a higher register, he brings out the rasp for us here as he discusses his time in the Mormon Church, and we’re not worthy. Don’t even try saying the guitar line at the end of the chorus isn’t everything, either.
29. “I (Oh, I)” (Tarzan Reject - EP)
The bass and guitar lines are bonkers in a good way as Luppen delineates the realization that he and his favorite person are drifting apart permanently. It’s a shame this track didn’t win a Pulitzer Prize from its flowery yet not overdone lyrics (example: “A sun-kissed moon is weak with gravity, we all know / But still, the books of men we pound into our lips, our ears, our skin.”)
28. “Dollar Bill” (South - EP)
This track is just flat-out fun. It’s about a stripper who has seemingly become the focal point of the boys’ thoughts, and they just can’t seem to shake her. The gradual build-up of the guitars and drums in the outro is stimulating, and Luppen’s “oohs” that fade out the track are beyond compare.
27. “Violet” (South - EP)
That bass is sublime. Violet, a conceptual character, is opening the boys up to the unknown parts of the world — both the good and bad. The bridge and outro have no business being that pretty.
26. “Anxious” (Bambi)
Melancholy vocals gradually become a cathartic release in the chorus, as Luppen divulges the narrative of an anxiety-laden individual, supported by first-rate synths. With this band, even the simplest lyrics on the surface hold so much power: “Don’t you know you’re not to blame for feeling?”
25. “Mistakes” (Bambi)
Prepare to astroproject. It takes approximately 10 seconds for this opening track to take you to an inexplicably beautiful parallel universe, whether it’s because of Luppen’s gorgeously layered vocals, the invigorating synths or the message of reassuring someone their feelings are always valid.
24. “Little Grace” (Bashful Creatures - EP)
This song is for the days you feel incredibly happy with the need to break out in dance. Luppen takes listeners back to early school days, as he describes the artsy girls he’d encounter who he hopes will give him a chance. It’s just a vibe.
23. “Kentucky” (Demos II)
It’s time for a spontaneous road trip down some back roads and this track on an endless loop. The guitar almost sounds like a faint whistle at times, and the vocals are perfect to help you bask in the scenery you’d quickly drive past. The lyrics, like “Everything’s purpose is fickle to me,” juxtapose the careless vibes, so it has something for everyone.
22. “Boyish” (Landmark)
That subtle trumpet somehow packs a punch, accentuating the anger Luppen feels for being stuck in the middle of his parents’ divorce. Despite the angst, the track is wildly upbeat, and intense foot-tapping is bound to ensue.
21. “Epitaph” (Landmark)
Hardcore fans are most likely raging at how low this is. While the guitar line is one of the most beautiful this world has ever seen, the lyrics are a little all over the place, making it hard to see how much he really wants “Mary” to spend forever with him. It’s insanely beautiful regardless of the messy lyrics, though.
20. “Vacation” (Landmark)
Definitely one of the rawest tracks in the band’s discography, “Vacation” takes on the metaphorical idea of completely departing your body and starting anew elsewhere. The guitar is ethereal, and Luppen’s infrequent, distorted harmonies take listeners to better places.
19. “Pin” (Demos II)
Luppen wrote this track about the honeymoon phase of his relationship with his long-time girlfriend at the time. He knows the spark has dimmed, but he’s not ready to give up on her now or ever. There’s something so strangely nostalgic and inviting about the subdued roar of the guitar.
18. “Monsoon” (Landmark)
Grab some tissues before hitting play. Stocker’s sister died when they were both young, and he found himself not grieving the way the media typically portrays it — because, as everyone needs to hear, no one should be expected to grieve a certain way. The lyrics “It should’ve been me” are repeated over and over, and it just rips your heart out. The production is rightfully soft and somber.
17. “St. Paul Roofs” (Tarzan Reject - EP)
Somehow, the live performance outshines the recorded version. Luppen wants to take his significant other to the place they fell in love, hoping that’ll rekindle the spark. Both the vocals and guitar are extra dreamy.
16. “Bambi” (Bambi)
Those synths will be stuck in your mind for days on end. Guided by the occasional subtle trumpet, Luppen shares the loss of hope as he attempts to manage his uncontrollable mood swings. He explains the feeling all too well: “I haven’t been much myself / And I feel like my friends are being put through this hell I’m feeling / I think that I’m living, if you could call it living.”
15. “Souls” (Bashful Creatures - EP)
The guitar during the first and second verses will make you feel right at home, guaranteed. The boys are growing up and learning how to manage the real world together, promising to not retreat to old habits and instead find solace in each other. We have no choice but to stan a love song for the homies.
14. “Elephant Boys” (Demos II)
The five boys are embarking on new adventures in new places, and they’re rightfully scared. Next to a homey guitar and welcoming drums, they earn solid advice: just be yourself, and that’ll get you as far as you need to go. That’s a reminder everyone needs every once in a while.
13. “baseball” (warm glow - EP)
Some of the lyrics are just laughable — “There goes that moon boy lookin’ jungly with all his leaves a’growin’” — but that’s also what makes it so perfect. Never has a guitar line been so infectious, turning heads but still finding a way to push the message of speaking up for what you feel is right to the forefront. It’s a fat banger.
12. “Way It Goes” (Landmark)
“Way It Goes” keeps the good vibes coming, with an ethereal guitar solo and breathy harmonies that are both beyond reposeful. Hippo Campus is trying not to become too dependent on social media and being liked, and they’ve recognized that sometimes they can’t help it. They know they’re trying their best, though, and that’s what counts.
11. “Simple Season” (Landmark)
This track has the ability to bring out the liveliness in anyone, regardless of what mood you’re in when you hit play. With a guitar that instills you with all the contentment the world has to offer, “Simple Season” is about being with your person and finding the good in everything that comes your way, even when you’re struggling. Luppen’s head voice here, too, is bananas.
10. “South” (South - EP)
Luppen’s falsetto via his subtle “oohs” between the verses could probably save lives. The track’s title basically tells it all: it’s about experiences the boys have endured in the southern part of the country — places they’re not used to since they hail from Minnesota. When Stocker and Whistler harmonize with Luppen in the chorus and outro, it’s breathtaking.
9. “Vines” (Landmark)
The track is about a carefree night with your friends, ranting about whatever comes to mind and making the most of the time you spend together. The synths have this way of galvanizing anyone who gives them a chance — to the point that you feel like you can do anything with them dancing in your ears.
8. “Doubt” (Bambi)
Hippo Campus is flustered with how to approach love. With the catchiest chorus on Bambi and a groovy instrumental break, “Doubt” promises everyone listening it’s normal to feel uncertainty, even with the person you envision spending your life with: “Love, is it love? / We got trouble keeping up / Who can say you’re the one and never doubt it?”
7. “Buttercup” (Landmark)
As two lovers part ways, Luppen, with Stocker and Allen on backing vocals, take the role of a third-person, all-knowing narrator and promises the girl in the relationship will be OK. In fact, she’s only taking away positives from the breakup: “I’ll be fine on my own, she said / I don’t need you inside my head (she’ll be fine on her own; she’ll be fine on her own.”) The vibe is mind-blowingly optimistic for a rough situation.
6. “Passenger” (Bambi)
You know the pain of trying to coexist alongside the people with whom you’re so deeply infatuated? Hippo Campus does. Rhythmic synths transform into a lowly heartbeat after Luppen delivers painfully beautiful lyrics: “If we ever became the things we lost, the things we left behind / I would wish for the past when we were pure, suffering intertwined.” Don’t even try to say that doesn’t hurt.
5. “The Halocline” (South - EP)
The first 75 seconds are a journey into the serene, untouched by any worries, thanks to a dreamlike guitar from Stocker. Listeners are then ushered in by Luppen’s vocals that switch between a gorgeous rasp and being infectiously smooth. The track is about growing up and figuring out how screwed up the world really is, but the instrumentation reminds us of the good things it still has to offer.
4. “Golden” (Bambi)
We all crave for the love Luppen felt that compelled him to write this adorable track for his girlfriend at the time. A synth-pop wonderland leads the endearing lyrics: “Why is it I want to change for you? / Why is it I want to see this through? / Maybe I’m sick of sleeping longer nights with lesser feelings.” Having a song written for you in any capacity is a dream, but something as lovely as this? Just imagine.
3. “Suicide Saturday” (Bashful Creatures - EP)
The band has said in interviews that the track is about social suicide, the feeling of not wanting to be around anyone sometimes and how that’s perfectly OK. It’s a wonderful reminder that it’s better to work on yourself and your own mental health, putting it first instead of partaking in social activities that’ll only drag you down more. The guitar line may not be as extravagant as with other tracks, but it’s still flawless and helps draw more attention to the powerful lyricism.
2. “Poems” (Landmark)
Luppen’s vocal tone. That’s it. That’s the tweet. If you’re in the need of some soul-searching, crank this track. The character, Mary, has found herself pursuing a normal life, giving up on her dreams and going the safe route. The chorus is just the boys saying “la, la, la” over and over again, but it’s so warm and irresistible. This is far and away the band’s most underrated track.
1. “warm glow” (warm glow - EP)
Picture yourself on the outskirts of the countryside, breathing in slowly and taking in the view. As the tranquil guitar comes to life, you squeeze the hand of your loved one tighter and forget every worry that’s been plaguing you. As the boys all sing together, “Peace sign, getting by / People, we’ll be alright,” you believe them because their words and the vibe are both so convincing. A lot of Hippo Campus’ music is transcendent, but this track replicates the feeling of knowing you’ll genuinely be OK — maybe not right now, but someday, and that’s all that matters.