Vance Joy – Nation of Two Album Review
Four years after the release of his first album Dream Your Life Away, Australian singer/songwriter Vance Joy, best known for the hit single “Riptide,” has put forth his second effort with Nation of Two, an indie folk record with one clear theme: love. From the name of the album to the cover art to the lyrical content of the thirteen tracks that make up Nation of Two, it’s clear that Joy intended love to be the prevailing subject. In fact, in a November 2017 interview, Joy stated, ”Nation of Two describes a perfectly self-contained couple; their world beginning and ending at the bed they share, the car they ride in, or any other place where they're together... the idea that their love for each other gives them their bearings; a point of reference that makes sense of life."
All throughout Nation of Two, Joy uses his bittersweet lyrics and longing vocals to characterize the ups and downs of a relationship. The album is cohesive in the sense that it maintains this theme for its thirteen tracks, but it also does this at the expense of often sounding repetitious; the acoustic three-note run that introduces both “Call If You Need Me” and “Like Gold” is particularly noticeable, as is the constant trading of hushed verses and thundering choruses. The album does throw a few curveballs here and there, like the melodic pop ballad “Alone with Me” and the piano-laced nostalgia tune “Little Boy,” but the typical indie folk sound is prevalent for the majority of the record.
Of course, Nation of Two has its highlights. The lead single “Lay It on Me,” a top 20 hit in Australia, is possibly the best of the bunch, thanks to its driving rhythm, climactic choruses and infectious handclaps. The following track, “We’re Going Home,” provides a nice match as it maintains the powerful instrumentation but in a sweeping manner: a contrast to the choppy bouncing of its predecessor. Then there’s “Saturday Sun,” the album’s catchiest tune with its lively ukulele, playful horns and poppy refrains. Not all of Nation is Two is exceptional, however, as the album is unfortunately bogged down by a handful of seemingly unnecessary tracks in the middle. Nation of Two later redeems itself, however, with the anthemic triumph “One of These Days.”
Overall, Nation of Two is a solid indie folk album and an enjoyable listen, but aside from a handful of key tracks, there’s not much that makes it particularly stand out in its genre. The album is assuredly a step in the right direction for Joy, as it exudes greater confidence than his first work, and exhibits the progress he’s made as a songwriter, but it’s clear that there’s room to grow. Perhaps diversifying his musical inspiration or focusing on striving for originality will create the spark Joy needs to continue pursuing a successful indie folk career. The answer may come soon enough, but at the moment, he’ll likely remain best known as ‘the guy who did “Riptide.”’
DJ Bauer is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.