by Catherine Goldberg ’20
In 2014, Vance Joy became a blip on the indie-pop radar screen with his No. 1 hit on Billboard’s Top Alternative hits, “Riptide.” The song became a huge success, and eventually landed him a spot on Taylor Swift’s 1989 World Tour, leading to worldwide recognition and a large fan-base. Since then, Joy’s popularity has seemed to fade that is, until last week when he released his newest album, Nation of Two.
On Feb. 23, 30-year-old Vance Joy, whose real name is James Keogh, came out with his second album. The Australian singer and songwriter launched his 13 track album in his typical “troubadour” fashion, as he features the ukulele and banjo. The indie-pop artist’s record subtly uncovers the story of two lovers as each track proceeds to the next. Newsday says that Vance Joy’s new album has gone “deeper and broader” than his past album.
The cover art reveals a simple drawing of a couple laying on one another, yet facing opposite directions. The two people need and love one another but also hurt one another. This broad tone encapsulates each song on the record.
The album commences with the song “Call If You Need Me,” setting the theme for the album. The minimalist instrumentals leave Joy’s message simple but effective. The beginning verses expresses the one-sided love he experiences with his lover. His voice sings with passion, but also cracks with each breath, uncovering a sense that he is so moved he may cry. The song ends with the words, “I’m thinkin’ ‘bout coming home,” leaving the album in a forward motion.
Next is a more energetic song, “Lay It On Me.” This fast-paced song is saturated with instruments and backup singers. The culmination of guitar, horns ,and voices create a sound that listeners cannot get enough of. In the last 30 seconds, the complementary singers and instruments suddenly halt and leave Joy’s voice ringing solo, emphasizing his passion. In this moment, you truly hear him begging for his lover to tell him how she feels—“Oh Baby, will you lay it all on me now?”—followed by the chorus and instruments echoing in for the grand finale.
“Saturday Sun” is another upbeat and fun song on the album. It sets a happy mood as he recollects the happiest moments of his relationship. You picture Joy dancing in the “Saturday Sun” with his lover as he “met someone on the West Coast.” As he sings “la-la-la” and “ba-ba-ba” you feel a childish and playful happiness as he remembers the Saturday when he met his lover.
The Australian acoustic king has made himself very distinct from any other artist of the day. Joy showcases his musical talent with alluring and detailed guitar melodies, the beautiful echo of backup singers, and his genuine and original lyrics. Though “Riptide” rings in the background, the artist is not trying to recreate his hit. None of the songs ring as particularly strong as “Riptide, but Joy has created a beautiful follow-up album promising a good future in music.