By Martha Kowalski
A huge shout-out and thank you to my amazing C.2 Honors Pod-mate for bringing this album to my attention after I somehow missed a release by this long-loved band of mine. This is an album I wasn’t expecting and didn’t know I needed until I listened to it for the first time, and I cannot see a last time coming soon.
Emerging onto the scene around the same time as One Direction, The Vamps were never the instant breakout sensation of that global magnitude, but instead, consistent in their own shadow realm of modern British boy bands. However, unlike the breakup of their contemporaries such as 1D or Union J, The Vamps’s longevity in the music industry has kept them relevant and on repeat, with a lot of credit going towards the band’s ability to grow and redefine their sound and style over the years, from their first teenage heartthrob songs of “Somebody to You” and “Can We Dance,” to now a reckless escapade to get “Married in Vegas.”
The cherry blossom’s beauty comes from its fragility and weakness, metaphorical for time and life itself; it symbolizes spring and the renewal that comes with it, and The Vamps acknowledge that this was exactly their intention with their fifth studio album Cherry Blossom. With more of a kick to it than Yuzuru Hanyu’s enchanting “Haru Yo Koi” (“Come By Spring”) gala performance, The Vamps’s Cherry Blossom also lives up to its name: a rebirth, and much resembling the delicate nature of the cherry blossom, the band keeps every track as simple as possible so that each element included has a purpose and is necessary to the song to let it fully shine on its own. Sharp, modern and polished, emphasizing more the rock part of their rock-pop genre, The Vamps have entered into their self-proclaimed “Glory Days,” with vocalist Brad Simpson calling this his favorite album the band has released.
It’s easy to see why. In the past, The Vamps have dappled in different variations of pop: the more folky flavors of “Wild Heart,” the whimsical “Just My Type,” and the paradoxically classy “Hair Too Long.” This time, with Cherry Blossom, the band has embraced an edgier style, one that alternates between their classic heavy drums and guitar sequences and softer keyboard moments, and then throws it all together into what would sound like noise coming from anyone else, but yet they make it sound effortless and easy – the jazzy, snappy transitions in “Married in Vegas” being the perfect example. I’ve also always found it so melodically pleasing when singers can go from high to low and back with ease, or musicians can go from silence to crescendo in an instant, and I get so much of that in this album – there are a lot of dynamics and movement in the songs. It’s not very fluid; the music doesn’t seamlessly flow and blend but is instead more abrupt and unpredictable, but I think that The Vamps pull it off very well and it suits their style nicely.
I find it hard to describe sometimes why I like certain genres or specific songs other than I just feel it when it’s right. Be it a striking guitar chord or a dramatic pause right before the beat drops or simply just really, really good vocals that impress me, one little detail is all it could take to elevate a song from good to transcendent. As a result, a band as versatile as The Vamps has managed to find multiple ways to pleasantly surprise me with this album.
First of all, I really appreciate that “Glory Days” has its own intro as a sort of prelude into the album – for a song whose title radiates triumph and majesty, it is very effective at setting this tone not only for itself but for the whole album. One of my favorite songs would have to be “Chemicals,” one of the more rock infused songs on the album. With steady, driving drums and energetic bursts between the verses and chorus, it’s got a bit of a punch to it that makes it such a jam. Completely contrary is another favorite, “Would You,” a softer track with crying guitar hints haunting the piano progression and drum layers, and a stinging vulnerability in the lyrics, “If I walked out the door, would you even notice I’m gone? Would you even miss me at all? Would you? Would you?”
Give me a moment also to highlight Brad Simpson’s phenomenal vocals in the track, because he is able to spin “Would You” into even a more heartbroken direction in the acoustic version too – his voice thick with emotion and powerful against the piano notes. It is a true testament to his vocal abilities that often go very underrated; he has such a unique timbre that he can pull off these songs and scales that would sound off-key if anyone else sang it – believe me, I’ve tried. For that reason, I would have to declare that Simpson’s voice is absolutely a staple in every song. I’ve enjoyed listening to The Vamps’s evolution over the last several years. Their first album still lies on my desk in a broken CD case worn from opening and closing so often; similarly, I fear breaking my repeat button from Cherry Blossom. Reliable and durable, The Vamps have proven to me yet again why they continue to deserve a spot in my favorites.