The storytelling on Hippo Campus’ new EP, Wasteland, is set against a dystopian, painterly backdrop, fragments of humanity lingering at the edges of the end. On the horizon, a tornado-like entity looms — and instead of turning away, we go forward, plunging into the storm of unknown, and remaining somehow hopeful, in spite of it all.

The five songs collected on Wasteland are totems of friendship, hardship, heartbreak, and, ultimately, perseverance. It’s dispatched from an unnamed disaster spread out across the Midwestern plains; the band was heavily inspired by country music, the way that songwriting gets straight to the point, and using that straight-forwardness, imagery, and dark humor as a vehicle for talking about the grief, loss, and love they’ve collectively experienced in the past year.

Since the very beginning, with their debut album, 2017’s Landmark, to 2022’s LP3, Minneapolis’ Hippo Campus — made up of vocalist/guitarists Jake Luppen and Nathan Stocker, drummer Whistler Allen, bassist Zach Sutton, and trumpeter DeCarlo Jackson — have tried to make sense of the world around them. They’ve always embraced the ride, the good and bad, trudging through together, and Wasteland is the most honest version of that. Nearly a decade into being a band, Hippo Campus still embraces and is guided by the ethos of shaking it up, sonically or otherwise. Early Hippo Campus records wanted to be cerebral, heady, to use poetic language and obscure their feelings — now, they want to be understood.