I will always, to a certain extent, associate James Chapman's music with hard times. Let's rewind a bit: I blindly stumbled upon his second album as Maps at the beginning of 2010, after a disastrous end to the previous year had left me feeling emotionally shattered. I held on for those first few months until better times started to arrive, lost in a combination of debilitating depression and poisonous self-loathing.

Turning the Mind was my therapy, a visceral album for uncertain times. It was an album I looked upon as having an important message: buried beneath the dark themes and troubled imagery was comfort; assurance that everything just might work out OK in the end. Turning the Mind was the battle; Vicissitude is the aftermath. In Chapman's own words, his new album - born from personal experience after an extended hiatus - is about "change, dealing with a struggle and coming through it": 'vicissitude (n.) 1. A change of circumstances or fortune, typically one that is unwelcome or unpleasant.'

This was the catalyst for the record. Chapman went home, stripped everything back to its acoustic roots, and laid down the foundations for an album which takes his sound in unexpected new directions. "I keep staring into the sun, but it don't feel right / Tell me I'm not the only one," he pleads on beat-driven opener 'A.M.A.', and it's this sense of unease which has helped him to start over again, helped him to begin fighting back.

It's a more pop-driven album, at its heart - even though four songs hover around the six-minute mark, with slow-burning centrepiece 'Nicholas' clocking in at 6:37, content to drift along and invite the listener to lose themselves in its wispy atmosphere, before achieving lift-off with its synth-driven outro. It's a noticeable change of pace on an album which showcases Chapman's new songwriting style; he's learned to do more with less, sticking to the album's central message admirably. "You'll make it through; do everything you've gotta do, and soon the light will shine in you" runs the chorus of the minimalistic title track, before the noise-pop of 'Left Behind' produces the most immediate moment on the record.

There's very little dwelling on the past over the course of the album; Chapman has taken the idea of turning over a new leaf to heart, and 'Insignificant Others' is the most pointed track on the album. Addressing someone who used to be important in his life - an ex-lover, perhaps, or a former friend - he sings, "You led the way to something new, but time has passed, your moment's through" as the song moves from a stately progression, firstly into an instrumental bridge, and then into an empowering coda, the track - along with Chapman himself - seeming to grow in strength each time he repeats, "It's so insignificant to me."

He has no qualms about starting a new chapter in his life, and while introspectiveness is certainly his forté, Chapman's follow-up to his dark and emotionally troubled second album is altogether more positive on a lyrical level (save for perhaps the closer, on which he admits that he's become 'Adjusted to the Darkness'), and more focused on a musical level. It was never his intention to take as long a break as he did, but the time off has allowed him to get to the heart of his music and profoundly personal approach to writing. He needed to move on, and he's done so with an understated and beautiful album, coming out the other side of his personal struggles with confidence and a new-found clarity, both of mind and musical vision.