A lot can change in a year, especially for Champs, now on their second album the stunning Vamala.
Normally if a band pushed out two albums in the space of a year between each release, you’d expect the latter to be quite the let-down, maybe sub-par at best. On Vamala however, Champs have not only managed to break away from the lacklustre second album trap, but they’ve surpassed their debut, Down Like Gold, with flying colours.
On Down Like Gold, Champs provided ten tracks filled with the power of vicious waves, crashing against their home town on the Isle of Wight. Now on Vamala, the power found with the lyrics and solemn instrumentation of Down Like Gold, has been transformed into equally earnest pop songs, that erupt into choruses ready to blow away festival go-ers everywhere this year, especially with the album opener Desire.
It started with explosions, the sound of bombs in your heart.
Amplified by the occasional electronic charge, Desire follows on from previous single My Spirit Is Broken, transforming the bright eyed, yet deeply disfigured inside display, into a more contemporary, tangible piece, that echoes its own echoes of turmoil and self destruction. Loaded with guitars and an undertone with the delicate piano, Desire comprises itself with all the key factors found in the most lucrative pop tracks around.
Similarly on tracks Vamala and Blood, the combination of Champs, folk-pop style with more contemporary, yet traditional pop styles, creates a fresh take on the more sombre moments of pop music. On Vamala, the pleasant in appearance guise heard throughout Down Like Gold, is key to the fluidity of the track as a whole. Equally on Blood, piano tones are graced with an aspect of hope and prosperity, an almost alien approach to Champs narrative, when you unravel their unsettling lyrics. Blood is loaded with the optimistic joy of the youthfulness, as its bleak narrative fails in bringing down the overall upbeat (in a sense) tone, throughout the entire track.
Champs ‘new’ bright eyed, yet deeply unsettled narrative however, takes a back seat, when the Isle of Wight duo, reproduce their traditional, bleak in sound folk, on tracks Sophia, Send Me Down, 3000 Miles and The Devil’s Carnival.
Most noticeably on Send Me Down and 3000 Miles, the lyrics provide a key understanding into the inner thoughts of Champs. Send Me Down simply pieces itself together with an acoustic and piano, before being accompanied by Karin Park, to amplify the vocals for a near orchestral affect. While on 3000 Miles, the build up is equal in the fact that the build up begins slow, but contrasting in the fact that several breaks from the tracks laid back sadness, into more catastrophically aware moments of utter despair.
The overall concept felt on Vamala, is that of a duo who have already perfected their own style, adapting the deeper thoughts of folk, into the more attainable boundaries of pop music. While emotionally dark pop songs are no new occurrence to the music world, Champs formulation of folk tinged, neo-dark pop is riveting to say the least. Carefully hidden under a guise of anthemic productions and delicately beautiful vocals, Vamala manages to be an album that has a clearly set tone of darker inclinations, but yet manages to remain attainable to brighter eyed pop fans. Here’s hoping Champs will wait more than a year so we can rebuild ourselves in preparation for album number three.