Champs – Vamala

Brothers Michael and David Champion have been busy boys.

Barely a year after the release of striking debut album ‘Down Like Gold’ they are back with Vamala, a sophomore release of gorgeously melancholic pop.

Operating in the saturated indie pop market, Champs still managed to make an indelible impression with their debut; some have attributed it to the band’s Isle of Wight origins. The sense of isolation and otherness conveyed on songs like ‘Too Bright to Shine’ and ‘My Spirit is Broken’ seemed to support that theory – Vamala is a different beast, building on the promise shown on their debut with a record that is a definite move towards a sleeker, more mainstream sound.

French producer Dimitri Tikovoï shifts the point of attack just a little – Tikovoï has worked with acts like Goldfrapp, Placebo, The Horrors and Girls Aloud and his influence comes through strongly in the less organic approach adopted in recording these songs. Once again, it is the honey layered vocal harmonies that get star billing, and rightly so – songs like ‘Sophia’ float along with a crystalline beauty, due in no small part to the gorgeous vocals.

Latest single ‘Desire’ opens the record and it is immediately apparent that Champs are making big strides towards mainstream success – this is an album with obvious commercial appeal. There are a number of anthems in disguise sprinkled throughout the record – teaser track ‘Blood’ is one of the best songs of 2015 so far, a dreampop gem which positively glows while ‘Send Me Down’ is destined to be a live sing-a-long favourite. ‘Forever Be Upstanding At My Door’ sounds like a song from another era – there are echoes of Simon & Garfunkel in the tight harmonies and simple acoustic arrangement.

With Vamala, Champs have taken everything that was good about their debut album and made it bigger, brighter, shinier. It is mainstream pop with heart and soul, a beautiful and logical next step for one of our brightest new hopes.

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)