While one year between albums was once the norm, it seems that the speed with which people demand information has slowed down the writing and recording process, with surprise releases seemingly taking even longer to complete. On their second – planned and previously announced – release, VAMALA, the surprise is that Isle Of Wight brothers Champs have come so far, so soon, with a sophisticated folk-flavoured, pop collection that seems a lifetime away from their already impressive debut.
Lead single ‘Blood’ hinted at a richer output, with echoed piano chords swirling around Michael’s vocals – blending the falsettos of The Bee Gees and Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor to create something smooth yet sturdy, like stirring sand into syrup. While moments of their debut, particularly single ‘My Spirit Is Broken’, harked back to The Traveling Wilburies, ‘Desire’ focuses elsewhere in the ‘80s, sprinkled with rhythms from Talk Talk or New Order, and featuring an ear worm of an echoed “echo, echo” line.
Title track ‘Vamala’ hints an almost hip-hop rhythm, enforcing the idea that Champs are indeed the champs of genre-blending; like the musical equivalent of one of those “chuck whatever you want in” milkshake huts, the results are always sweet. ‘Forever Be Upstanding At The Door’ returns to a Wilburies-like wail, the vocal harmonies channeling a gentle George Harrison and Roy Orbison duet, while Sophia is more McCartney (he loves a track named after a girl), and not unlike Alex Turner’s Submarine soundtrack, with the simple chorus of “please tell me nothing compares.”
‘The Balfron Tower’ and closer ‘The Devi’s Carnival’ offer stark stories, perhaps influenced by the quieter moments on the island they call home, ensuring that while each track is a mixed bag of influences, the entire collection is too. With VAMALA receiving over a million streams so far, Champs game is already on the up. Here’s hoping a summer of festivals is followed by studio time, and their next winner at the same time in 2016.
VAMALA is out now via Play It Again Sam.