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Review: Nation of Two – Vance Joy

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Vance Joy has finally released his second studio album, Nation of Two, following his 2014 debut featuring ‘Riptide’, which led him to the top of the Hottest 100.

Dream Your Life Away gave us a taste of Vance Joy’s sweet, honest acoustic style. Nation of Two builds more on what we know and, true to its name,  sounds like a conversation between two people, like you’re the one these songs were written for. Each song is as romantic and intimate as the last. It’s the perfect soundtrack for a rainy Sunday wrapped up in blankets next to someone you love.

Like Lorde with her second album Melodrama, Vance Joy retains the style and sound that got him noticed in his first album. It’s old enough to be comfortable and familiar. At the same time, it maintains a refreshing vibe.

Most of the record’s 13 songs are beautiful anecdotal love letters. They’re so authentic that you’ll need to remind yourself they’re actually not written about you. The first line of the whole album comes in ‘Call If You Need Me’ and pretty much sums up what’s to come: “I love you in the morning when the blood runs to your cheeks, babe you’re the first thing and the last thing that I see.” Sprinkled over a rhythmic, finger-picked guitar are a lot of poetic (albeit slightly corny) lyrics.

The Guardian tore the album to shreds, describing the lyrics as cliché. They claim his lyrics sound like Hallmark greeting cards, specifically the line “You light up my days, my personal sun” from ‘Crashing Into You.’ I have to disagree. While you’d probably cringe in horror if your significant other said those words to your face, Vance Joy’s innocent boyish charm absolutely allows him to get away with it.

Nation of Two
When someone says Vance Joy’s lyrics aren’t good. Source

One of the most memorable lines (possibly because he discussed his fondness for it in a Triple J interview) comes in the second verse of ‘Call If You Need Me’: “You were in the shower, we were talking through the glass.” It’s these snippets of simple stories that appear throughout the album that make it so authentic.

‘Saturday Sun’ boasts the same brass-heavy sound as the premiere single ‘Lay It On Me’ that came out last year and went triple platinum in Australia upon its release. ‘Saturday Sun’ asks that “so… what are we?” question that so many of us find ourselves stuck with when we meet someone new. The combination of ukulele, trumpets and the bold, hollow drums makes you forget this is actually kind of a sad song, about the anxiety of a new relationship crashing and burning, hoping it won’t.

‘Like Gold’ takes a more fluid approach to song-writing, with monosyllabic lyrics that flow effortlessly. Put together by producer Phil Ek, there is a definite similarity between this song and the sound of ‘The Paper Kites’ or ‘Fleet Foxes’, which Vance addresses in his interview with Triple J.

‘Little Boy’ tells the story of a hospital visit as a young boy when he’d fallen off his bike, but is really a dedication to his Melbourne childhood. It reflects a very Paul Kelly-esque approach to song-writing.

I’ve listened to this album at least twice a day since its release. The upbeat, acoustic honesty sung with Vance’s vulnerable voice brings folk-pop to the front. It’s my prediction that these songs will get a whole lot of airplay throughout the year.

For that, Nation of Two gets 4.2 ukuleles out of five.