Indie-alternative artist Vance Joy has returned with the release of his album “Nation of Two” and it isn’t as great as it could have been.
Joy, who is best known for his 2013 single “Riptide,” brings his ukulele riffs and musings about love to the second, full album release of his career.
“Nation of Two” is a very sturdy, agreeable entry in the indie pop genre, but some of its potential is a bit squandered by lyrics that come across as clichéd.
Take “Call if You Need Me,” the lead single of the album, for example. For the majority, it admirably eschews bells and whistles in favor of Joy’s passionate voice and simple but effective acoustics, which calls back made the earnest “Riptide” so memorable.
With that being said, lines like, “Loved you in the darkness and I loved you in fluorescent light” and “If it don’t feel right, like a bird, you can take flight,” perhaps are not as evocative or poignant as what Joy is aiming to convey with this album opener.
Another song later in the album, “Bonnie and Clyde,” describes the classic movie and compares it to a relationship. It’s a novel concept, but the lyrics fail to capitalize on the full potential.
As an introspective look at love and relationships, the album is hit-or-miss. The tunes offered up in “Nation of Two” instead work better when they are structured more as upbeat crowd-pleasers.
For example, the best song of the album, “Saturday Sun,” is bursting with positive energy and happiness. “We’re Going Home” leans more into rock sounds, and has a really powerful chorus. And “Lay it On Me” builds up gradually to some bouncy fun.
Joy manages to carry the whole thing with his unique voice. He has a way of invoking a real sense of passion behind his inflections and, at times, he intentionally puts some strain in his voice, which adds quite a bit of character to his performance.
While not everything about the album feels particularly unique, as a singer at least he finds a way to really distinguish himself.
“Nation of Two” feels like the kind of album that would work well as background music for long drives because as a cohesive whole, it is pleasant, even if the songs at times feel a little bit bland and don’t necessarily ask for full attention to interpret and appreciate.
While the sum of its parts isn’t Joy’s best work, he clearly has a ton of talent and it will be interesting to see what the 30-year-old singer-songwriter does next.