“Halloween Leaves” by Champ de Mars

In their latest release, titled Halloween Leaves, alternative rockers Champ de Mars are set to explore instrumental complexities as a means of making a narrative even more impulsive and penetrative than the standard typically allows, and to me, it’s worth more than a close look. Though tempered by a controlled approach to songs like “Wedding Dresses and Fancy Watches,” “Little Blue Lines,” “Benders in the Basement” and my personal favorite “Ghosts in the Attic,” Halloween Leaves is nonetheless quite the dynamic, forward-thinking LP that doesn’t push pop pleasantries in front of raw versatility. This is very much an identity album and one that I would recommend to indie buffs everywhere this April.

There’s a lot of meat in this record, and in the case of “Leaves in Fall” or “Porch Apologies,” it’s responsible for defining the bulk of the tone perhaps even more than the lyrics are. While lyrical integrity is something that Champ de Mars has never pulled punches about, they don’t have a problem putting all of their energy into pummeling tenacity where it counts the most in Halloween Leaves, which is more than I can say for some of their closest competitors in the mainstream market right now. Indulgence has its place in pop music, but this crew doesn’t require its presence to sound theatrical and on-point here.

The implied discordance between the guitar and the percussion in “Leaves in Spring” is only made more intriguing by the introduction of a gentle arrangement, and this exemplifies the kind of experimentation I want to hear more of from Champ de Mars. There’s a triangulated feel to the way the harmonies unfold in this particular track that I haven’t been able to get enough of since first getting into Halloween Leaves ahead of its official release, and given its rarity, I see other rock aficionados sharing my enthusiasm.

Despite the implied tension in the tracklist as we move from the likes of “Wedding Dresses and Fancy Watches” into slightly more complicated territories ala “Monsters in the Kitchen,” “Leaves in Winter” and the aforementioned “Porch Apologies,” nothing here feels overly stripped-down to fit the overall theme of efficiency. Instead of adopting conservative stylizations to fit into the concept they were shooting for in this album, Champ de Mars is simply stuffing their aesthetics into a box and letting all of the angular elements stick out. It’s rather abrasive on paper, but in practice, I think it’s allowing them to sound a lot more relaxed and connected with the medium.

Halloween Leaves is a great look for Champ de Mars, and I believe it will likely be regarded as the best set of original songs they could have given us for widespread release thus far. There’s a whole lot of 2024 left, but if this is to be the tone-setting indie release of the year, I would say we’re in for some really quality content in the next eight months or so. Champ de Mars has earned a place in the headlines here, and I don’t think I’ll be the only one who thinks so.

Chadwick Easton

Music

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