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Vance Joy explores the ups and downs of relationships on ‘Nation of Two’

| Monday, March 5, 2018

Joseph Han | The Observer

Vance Joy is no longer the same starry-eyed boy “scared of dentists and the dark,” as he describes himself on his recently-released sophomore album, “Nation of Two.” The Australian singer-songwriter maintains his signature acoustic simplicity and combines it with unique, personal narratives to craft songs that stand out for their upbeat, infectious sound and light, airy lyrics. Joy — whose real name is James Keogh — turns his attention to songs of love and discovery on his latest release, endeavoring to explore both the pain and pleasure of relationships.

The album begins with “Call If You Need Me,” an intimate, down-to-earth love song that sets the tone for the entire album. The intro is Joy on his guitalele, a smaller version of a standard guitar. It starts soft and slow with Joy’s methodical picking and approachable, naive voice, singing “I love you in the morning when the blood runs to your cheeks / Babe, you are the first thing and the last thing that I’d see.” He paints a picture of a couple perfectly infatuated with one another. The whole of “Call If You Need Me” attempts to describe the kind of love where your world begins and ends whenever you’re with that one person and succeeds in doing so. Joy’s earthy, folky and above all, sincere lyrics leave listeners of his opening track thinking fondly of who that one person is for them.

“Saturday Sun” sees Joy jumping back on the ukulele. It’s a catchy, upbeat track about meeting someone new. The song’s fast-paced strumming and euphoric trumpets carry the chorus and make it a perfect choice for summer road trips and sunny weather listening. Joy wrote the lyrics traveling from Venice Beach to Malibu and the beautiful stretch of coastal, California highway that must have travelled comes through in the breezy attractiveness of the melody.

The album slows down with “I’m with You,” one of the songs Joy let his fans know, prior to its release, is one of his favorites. On this track Joy embraces his talent for visual storytelling. He captures the idea of love found, and then lost as he begins “I’ll be the match to your candle / My darling, I’m ready, to burst into flames for you” and then eventually recounts “You looked at me and said ‘baby, this rain changes everything’ / And my heart ran away from me.” The pain and pleasure of this relationship is evident in the shifts in Joy’s voice. He embraces his full vocal range to explore the ups and downs of love on one of the lyrical standouts of the album.

A disappointing follow-up effort is known to kill even the most promising of acts. Good thing Vance Joy delivers on “Nation of Two.” The album was a long time coming — four years to be exact. Yet, the wait gave way to a work that shows an artist who has matured and established himself since gaining ground as Taylor Swift’s opening act on her 1989 tour. Each song on “Nation of Two” has a narrative at its core with a well-developed cast of characters contributing to its catchy, climatic sound — Joy’s signature sound. Since “Nation of Two” is only Joy’s sophomore album, audiences are left waiting to see where the singer-songwriter will take them next.

 

Artist: Vance Joy

Album: “Nation of Two”

Label: Liberation Music

Tracks: “Saturday Sun,” “Call If You Need Me,” “Like Gold”

If you like: The Lumineers, Mumford & Sons, The Head and the Heart

4.5 out of 5 Shamrocks

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