Album Review: Vance Joy – Nation of Two

Friday, March 2, 2018

Melbourne muso Vance Joy picks up exactly where he left off with his latest release Nation of Two. Collaborating with veteran songwriters Dan Wilson (Dixie Chicks, Adele) and Dave Bassett (Rachel Platten, Elle King), the sophomore album is yet another elaboration of what James Keogh does best with his music: tell stories that are heartfelt, affectionate and uplifting.

The tracks that stand out the most on Nation of Two are those that are characteristic of Vance Joy’s previous releases. They’re triumphant, joyous, easy to sing along to and perhaps most importantly, familiar to his fans. ‘Lay It On Me’ for example, is teeming with starry-eyed lyrics and an exultant chorus accompanied by trumpets, drums, guitar and more. The song has already received a big tick of approval from Aussie fans, earning the #9 spot in Triple J's Hottest 100 for 2017. Similarly, other songs like 'We're Going Home', ‘One of These Days’ and 'Saturday Sun' could easily be weaved into the soundtrack of a Hollywood rom-com because they’re all filled with romantic themes and feel-good vibes.

In saying this, Nation of Two is not merely a replica of the music from Vance Joy’s 2013 EP God Loves You When You’re Dancing or his debut album Dream Your Life Away. There are moments of divergence where you can hear Keogh experiment with his sound and try something new.

Most impressive is ‘Like Gold’, which features Keogh singing in a lower, more grounded register that usual. The beautifully layered harmonies, prominent guitar arrangement and echoing drums in the song are reminiscent of ‘White Winter Hymnal’ by Fleet Foxes. To me, ‘Like Gold’ is a hidden gem on Nation of Two that gives listeners an exciting insight into what Vance Joy can do beyond dreamy lyrics and love songs. I personally would love to see Keogh delve into this kind of music a bit more in the future.

The only thing that I didn’t really like about the album is its first track ‘Call When You Need Me’. To me, it didn’t sound like a strong way to start the album and it had awkward and confusing lyrics like “Your mother always told us we should go out to the dance, you can’t get stuck by lighting if you’re not standing in the rain.”

Overall however, Nation of Two showcases a stronger, more confident Vance Joy and proves that Keogh’s music can stand firmly on its own miles beyond his much loved ukulele anthem ‘Riptide’. The greatest thing about Vance Joy’s music is that in its best form, it encapsulates that feeling of pure bliss and happiness that comes with love. Keogh’s ability to craft music and lyrics that resonate deeply with fans is a huge reason for his growing success in Australia and abroad. Its easy to tell that many of the songs in Nation of Two will get any crowd singing the night away.

If listening to a curly-haired Aussie crooner is your cup of tea, make sure to check out Vance Joy’s tour page here. He will be playing shows in Australia this September.

Written by Sallie Rodriguez

You can purchase Nation of Two here or stream it via Apple Music