Philly pop band Camp Candle, made of vocalist/lyricist Briana “Hetepsa” Mills and producer/instrumentalist Mark “Nu-Ra” Cave, are decidedly about “the vibes”. While that phrase has become loaded with imagery of city-dwelling, Doc Martin-toting neo-spiritualists in the post-tumblr age, it’s not necessarily a jab at the duo. Far from it, Camp Candle seems to have arrived at a “vibey” cohesion on their three-track EP If We Had a Pool.., one that their previous releases have only managed in smatterings. One moment sensual, another propulsive, Camp Candle have uncovered a particularly evocative brand of summer-affected indie pop on their strongest release to date, despite some production missteps.
While much of the duo’s previous work dabbled in 80s pop pastiches, Pool is their most distinctly current-sounding project, its post-tropical house sonic palette sizzling as much as it splashes. Opener “NRT” is an effective slice of funky poolside pop that reads like a downtempo take on French disco, though its fairly indistinct vocal melody renders it a touch meandering in execution, especially when stretched over a 4 minute runtime. That’s not to say the track has nothing to offer – quite the opposite, as the song’s propulsive central drum loop and cool guitar tones are nearly trance-inducing in their insistence. However, it’s here that the EP’s achilles heel already manifests: heavy chorusing and decidedly warm vocal processing renders the lyrics across “NRT” and all other tracks on the project mostly indecipherable. It might have lent an alluring haziness to the whole affair in another context, but given that the band seems to want its introspective penmanship to be heard, it’s ultimately frustrating given “NRT’s” vocal-forward production.
That issue is even more apparent on “Lilah”, especially paired with the track’s comparatively muted master. Arena rock by way of future bass, it’s the most similar to the duo’s previous work, though this isn’t entirely to its detriment. A guitar solo early into the track’s runtime soars over spacious chords and thundering gated snare hits, the project’s peak moment of emotional catharsis. A particularly hooky vocal melody is heard here, but again, those vocals are so obfuscated. In contrast, closing track and project highlight “Come With Me” stuns, beginning with the ambience of a city neighborhood before a sudden shift into leisured drum grooves and humid synths. Hetepsa’s vocal performance particularly shines here: as she repeats the song’s titular phrase throughout it’s runtime, her voice taking on an unwavering, ethereal patience. “Come With Me” acutely conjures a distinct flavor of bliss that the project’s previous tracks hinted at, a summer evening splendor that can so easily take hold of your mind and spirit. “Come with me” it implores, and you do so gladly.
Though some overwrought processing renders the project frustrating in places, If We Had a Pool.. is nonetheless invigorating. Part of the magic is certainly in just how effortlessly cool the band reads, seen in everything from their breezy vocals to a clean production sensibility that manages to never cross the line to clinical. They stand as an exciting presence in the midst of a post-punk oriented local scene, and on Pool they make the strongest case yet for their unique sensibilities. Camp Candle may not own a pool, but a dive into their world is no less refreshing.
- Playful, expressive instrumentation
- Alluring vocal performances
- Strong mix quality
- Inconsistent mastering
- Heavy vocal processing often results in indecipherable lyrics
- Occasionally unfocused arrangements
Listen here! Let us know in the comments what you think of Camp Candle’s latest.