Review: ‘Nation of Two’

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Divya Jagadeesh, Editor-in-chief

Four years after “Dream Your Life Away,” Australian singer Vance Joy’s sophomore effort, “Nation of Two,” is an evolution of sorts. From the lovelorn, yearning chords on his debut, Joy explores a world that begins and ends with a couple: their bed, their car, any place where they’re together. The tracks construct a tale about two people who use love as the point of reference in their life.

Throughout “Dream Your Life Away,” Joy seems to be reaching for a love that’s just out of reach, but “Nation of Two” is more sunny, and Joy is holding someone’s hand this time around. The first single from the album, “Lay It On Me,” has an infectious rhythm, and it’s reminiscent of the confident crooning from 2014. Joy has always been strong with his ballads, and the ones off this album are some of my favorites. Even the more poppy songs like “Saturday Sun” and “Like Gold” are replete with adoration for their subjects, and they have the feeling of a romantic montage during the heat of summer. Joy serenades his love in tracks such as “Take Your Time” and “I’m With You,” whose position right next to each other juxtaposes fiery longing with lovesick ache; they both expertly convey the speaker’s love and devotion with starkly different moods.

“I’m With You” is one of the best cuts on the album. Joy shows off his vocal range as he’s accompanied with only a guitar playing sparse chords. It contrasts with the fast-paced, catchy production Joy’s songs on the radio are known for, and, oh God, it hurts. It hurts when he describes his “darlin’,” and it hurts when he reaches a falsetto repeating the song’s title over and over. The layout of the song is simple, and it’s romantic in all the right ways — from a movie scene with fingers brushing and the sunset reflected in a pair of eyes.

However, it’s easy to get lost in this album. Much of it blends and blurs, and it doesn’t feel as cohesive as it should be. While songs such as “Crashing Into You” and “Little Boy” attempt to stand apart, they still underwhelm, without a climax. It’s too easy to put on this album, not recognize transitions between songs, and look up in surprise when it ends because it seemed like the first track, “Call If You Need Me,” was just on.

Despite its lack of variety, “Nation of Two” is still emotional and still communicates the several faces love takes on. Joy carries that Australian, folksy ambience from his previous EPs and debut, and he’s grown into it. For its smart storytelling and wistful vocal, “Nation of Two” deserves an A.