Australian singer-songwriter James Keogh’s (Vance Joy) debut album was released and the lead single ‘Riptide’ became an international hit, with the charm and indie-darling lyrics giving the single a warming nature. Unfortunately this album comes without any of this charm that made ‘Riptide’ such a hit. Instead, it’s replaced with a blandness that leaves the music without any real defining qualities.
The songs lack focus throughout Nation of Two, in both production, vocally and melodically. It feels like Keogh has tried to create something larger in his second project; as he attempts to move away from the more sparse sound of Dream Your Life Away, to produce a bigger sound. What in essence works about the first album is that either Keogh’s vocals or the limited instrumentation is what drives and defines each track. The production on Nation of Two includes more instrumentation but ultimately feels like less, the noise is on a level throughout the project, meaning that the muted background trumpets and the drum beat is given as much attention as the acoustic filling in lead or the vocals.
This indistinct nature of the album means it quickly becomes background fodder
This indistinct nature of the album means it quickly becomes background fodder in tone, one track moves on from the next, indistinguishable from each other. On occasion the production manages to re-create some of the charm of his first album, like on the track ‘Like Gold’, the minimal guitar shines, but the moment Keogh’s vocals come in, the blandness is re-introduced, the more interesting instrumentals take background to his monotone singing. His voice strays between the pure beauty of a Florence Welch or Adele and the rough natured but natural melodies of a Chris Martin - leaving Joy in a space in between, not knowing whether he wants to create a lyrical driving force behind the album or a more vocal based, one and ends up achieving neither.
On this note the lyrics also offer very little in the way of substance or note, no change on the typical love songs, but lacking the sweet, indie nature of ‘being scared of dentists and the dark’ and more into a cookie cutter lyrical style, offering very little in the way of unique lyric writing.
There is some merit to Keogh’s work, the general tone of the album means it’s a very easy listening experience, but what it lacks to launch it into the mainstream and creating a true summer hit single, is the lack of a distinctive or interesting enough melody that will grab the attention of the nation.