The sophomore album from Isle of Wight sibling duo Champs, 2015's Vamala beautifully showcases the group's thoughtful, melodic mix of folk and indie pop. Once again relying on the songwriting talents of brothers Michael and David Champion, Vamala finds Champs picking up the musical threads begun with their 2014 debut, Down Like Gold. As with that album, Vamala is full of the brothers' harmony-driven compositions, which bring to mind the literate '60s acoustic style of Simon & Garfunkel ("Roll Me Out"), as well as soulful, sophisti-folk '80s groups like the Beautiful South ("3,000 Miles"). Vamala also fits nicely alongside the works of such similarly inclined contemporaries Vampire Weekend and Foster the People. Whereas Down Like Gold was recorded in a Victorian-era water tower-turned-recording studio on the Isle of Wight, though, Champs relocated to London for Vamala to work with French producer Dimitri Tikovoi. Having previously helmed productions for such non-folk leaning artists as Placebo and Charli XCX, Tikovoi might not appear at first as a good fit for Champs' specific brand of ruminative, delicate pop. That said, the choice works and Tikovoi has helped craft a companion piece to Down Like Gold that frames Champs' lyrical, acoustic style with judicious bits of electronica, fuzzy keyboards, and echoey percussion. The production works especially well on cuts like "Sophia" and "Running," where Tikovoi's approach lends buoyancy to Michael's cherubic lead vocal croon. Elsewhere, Champs deliver a handful of cinematic anthems, including "Desire" and "The Balfron Tower," which, much like the duo's island home, are at once breezy and haunting.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar