Review: Riding the Riptide of Success

Courtesy Atlantic Records

Thirty-year old indie singer/songwriter Vance Joy has certainly ridden the “Riptide” well, transforming his success with the catchy hit single into a second studio album, “Nation of Two.” Vance Joy, otherwise known as James Keogh, saw his debut EP release in 2013, “God Loves You When You’re Dancing.” One track in particular from the album, “Riptide,” saw a widespread success across the US, rising to the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart, and earning him the esteem of many avid indie-listeners. Listeners were thrilled with the announcement of his second album in November of last year, and many more were ecstatic at the release of said album last friday.

Nation of Two is meant to be a reflection of the love between two people, along with all the ups and downs that accompany such a feeling. A tried and true concept, though nevertheless a worthy one, Vance’s songs throughout the album certainly make an effort to encapsulate the feelings of love, and for the most part are successful. Tracks such as “Saturday Sun” and the more popular “Lay It On Me” carry a series of upbeat lyrics and instruments that encompass the happy days of love. Likewise, tracks like “Alone With Me” and “Crashing Into You” represent the more somber, turmoil-ridden moments of a relationship. Though the tone of the album varies wildly between tracks, every song is distinctly his, ridden with familiar instruments and the same ‘Vance’ sound we’ve come to know from the first album.

Unfortunately, the shortcomings of the album are evident after only one playthrough – upon spending an hour listening to Vance, I could not place a finger on a track that sufficiently stood out. Indeed, it felt as though the album was constructed as a whole, no track meant to be listened to on its own. While this is a good experience for those with the time, this does not lend itself well to short sessions of music, and you’d be hard pressed to find any sort of “Fire and the Flood” or “Riptide” here, “Lay It On Me” being as close as you’re going to get.

Overall, it’s safe to say “Nation of Two” is a success. Vance Joy fans will be pleased at the undertones of familiarity with new and catchy vocals, and each song holds a different sound that will keep listeners interested the entire way through. Fairweather fans looking for the next hit single to blast out of their speakers may find themselves at a loss, however, and will find better luck with artists like AJR or WALK THE MOON.


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