Vance Joy’s sophomore album, Nation of Two is a safe expansion of the sunny, ukulele-infused indie-folk the Australian singer-songwriter became so well known for with “Riptide,” his career-launching 2013 single.
On the album, Joy continues to hone his craft of writing love songs that feel like glimpses into personal memories, all the while maintaining the universal appeal that will ensure these tracks are added to the spring playlists of Ed Sheeran and The Lumineers lovers everywhere. This ability shines through most successfully on the opening track, “Call If You Need Me,” as well as “Take Your Time,” “I’m With You,” and “Bonnie & Clyde.” If Nation of Two is a portrayal of a relationship, these are the vignettes that captivate listeners and inspire us to care about the overall narrative.
However, other songs falter and risk becoming lackluster when catchy melodies are strung together by lyrics that ultimately possess no lasting power. “Crashing Into You” serves as a collection of trite metaphors such as, “I was a bird, you opened the cage/It felt like a clean white page,” and “You light up my days, my personal sun.” Joy unremarkably compares being with his lover to the feeling of coming home on the track aptly titled, “We’re Going Home.”
At times, the sentiment of the songs draw too much from the reserve utilized by rom-coms and interchangeable pop songs, with lines such as, “You’re beautiful but you just don’t see it sometimes” in “Alone With Me.” While the gentle essence of these songs are still pleasing to the ear, one cannot help but to be left with the feeling that minimal creative effort was exerted.
The use of cliches would not be as disappointing if we did not already have evidence of Joy’s full capacities as a lyricist as demonstrated on his debut album Dream Your Life Away, where poetic images prevailed.
Yet, the album’s highs and lows are still unified by smooth vocals and the acoustic foundations found in most songs. “Saturday Sun,” the album’s second single, stands apart from the rest with its upbeat jingle and polished nature. The song is steeped in the free essence of summertime and will be the momentum driving interest in the album forward.
What Nation of Two lacks in innovation it makes up for in consistency. While it did not fully quench the thirst for new music left behind by Dream Your Life Away, it provides us with some pleasant background music as we wait for more captivating releases.