Halftime Leisure

Critical Voices: Vance Joy, Dream Your Life Away

September 12, 2014

Young, Australian performer James Koegh took on the name Vance Joy and broke onto the top of both indie and pop charts with his single “Riptide.” This hit serves as the cornerstone to his first LP, Dream Your Life Away, which was released on September 9th. Comprised of indie, folk, pop, and alt elements, this album presents a beautifully morose message of love. Keogh takes listeners through the stages of a young relationship. The story is about young man sadly bouncing in and out of amorous happiness Keogh takes  listeners through fleeting love that turns back and forth between remorse and passion. Although Vance Joy creates a nice, cohesive image, many of the songs cannot stand well alone. Poetically gorgeous lyrics and powerful vocals are frequently overshadowed by seemingly uncreative instrumentals.

Brevity is a lesson Vance Joy seems to struggle with. A few songs like “From Afar” could have been over at their halfway points. Skip to almost any part of this song and you will hear the same few chords being mechanically strummed again and again. It goes from a verse, to a dramatic pause, single chord hits with slower, lyrics, and a drum rise to start the whole vicious cycle all over again. Many of Keogh’s songs feel as though they’re cut from the same rudimentary template. Basic chord patterns and predictable rises are soon realized by anyone, and listeners are left with Mumford & Sons level crimes of repetition. It is unfortunate, redemption for most of these tracks was only 90 seconds away.

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However, this is not the entire album, there are several well-made recordings that live up to his earlier career in singles and EPs. The album is gently introduced but gives way to a strong, melancholy, Tracy Chapman-style song called “Mess is Mine.” Intricate guitar picking, melancholy violin, and well-sung, profound lyrics make this song stand out on the LP.

The ultimate happiness in this album is of course “Riptide,” which is is wonderful, ukulele, beach poetry. Haunting vocals, ponderous lyrics of young love, and an unbelievably catchy chorus are in perfect accord with the instrumental rises and deep, drum accents. At this point on the album, the overall rhythmic attitude seems to pick up, and it transitions well into a fun track called “Who Am I.” This is another song to sit by the ocean and appreciate. Breezy drums reinforce an upbeat, group-sung chorus led by Keogh.

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The final strong point of the album is “Red Eye.” Vance Joy should take note of this song for future reference. Although over five minutes long, this song keeps the momentum going by making multiple rhythm and vocal alterations.  Moments of slow, acoustic serenity and pleasantly broken by powerful chorus sections. Once a pattern is established, it is soon broken. Strength quickly switches to heartful morosity. Violins reinforce the rising power while complimenting the slower, low notes with sadness. Repeated lyrics come about like new emotional interpretations when heard through different points in the song. The album ends with slow and folky message of love for the future. Although there are a few diamonds, they can be tough to find in this freshman album’s rough.

Voice Choices: “First Time” “Who Am I”

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Michael Bergin
Mike Bergin is the former executive culture Editor for the Georgetown Voice. You can follow him on Twitter @mbergin95

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Nice review, I’ll be sure to listen for the gems when I see Joy in concert!