92ZEW Vance Joy's debut album delivers catchy lyrics with laid back instrumentals.
92ZEW
Vance Joy’s debut album delivers catchy lyrics with laid back instrumentals.

★★★★☆

Catchy lyrics and soothing acoustics are no stranger to the up-and-coming singer-songwriter James Kough, known to most as Vance Joy.

Hailing from Australia, he first began a career as a semi-professional football player before leaving the sports world to dabble in the music scene. Last year, he took the charts by storm with his cheerful, laid-back hit “Riptide” that debuted at No. 1 on the 2013 Triple J Hottest 100. In the wake of this success, his debut album “Dream Your Life Away,” released Sept. 9, had expectations to meet. Joy meets these expectations, producing an album that showcases his talent within the indie-rock genre, bringing a novel, lighthearted sound to the pop-dominated music world.

The album begins with the song “Winds of Change.” Although Joy solemnly sings of missing his significant other, wondering, “When are you coming home, my love,” the song has an overall upbeat and hopeful tone. Joy’s eloquent, emotionally charged lyrics are paired with fast-paced, joyful guitar and drum beats, setting a jovial mood for the next 12 songs.

“Mess is Mine” is the second single from this album. It showcases an acoustic riff that pairs wonderfully with Joy’s soothing voice. He blissfully sings this tale of love and heartbreak with poetic words, and his low rasp is further accentuated by impassioned falsetto notes. The song incorporates a clapping percussion rhythm that uplifts and adds an element of nostalgia, creating a feel-good environment for the listener.

The ballad “Wasted Time” expands upon the thematic romance of the album. Joy proclaims his love for a girl, saying she is “so beautiful now … flashing those eyes at me.” He is “eager to please” her, but worries he is wasting his time trying to go after her. This song contains his signature acoustic guitar sound paired with subtle percussion instruments in the background. Joy’s simple yet sweet lyrics paint a vivid picture in the listener’s mind, which is only intensified by the simplicity of the instrumentals. Following the rhythmic flow of the album’s earlier tracks, the single starts out slow and progresses into stronger vocals and more prominent drum and guitar melodies.

Throughout the album, Joy focuses on getting in touch with the young generation’s joys, dreams and uncertainties. The smash hit “Riptide” has a dreamy, carefree tone that instantly transports wistful listeners to beaches of memories past. With such a classically laid-back indie vibe, it’s no wonder the track was considered by many to be the top song of the summer.

“Who Am I” is a classic song of discovery for young people. Joy sings, “And there’s no need for us/ Knowin’ all the answers yet,” a message that is certainly relatable for high-strung college students.

As the album progresses, it picks up the pace a bit with “All I Ever Wanted,” in which Joy reminisces on his past and how he wishes he could have more time. The different themes present in this album revolve around the universal emotions and experiences of life.

In “Best That I Can,” he is “Sick of leaving things half  done/ Leaving things half said.” The ending track, “My Kind of Man,” yet again portrays Joy as a source of comfort and advice, as he tells listeners to “take whatever [we] are given” and to “Find a thing that you love/Find a thing you understand.”

The listener takes away a lesson from these final few songs: There is more to life than what we see and do impulsively. Joy wants listeners to see their worth and encourages them to do the best they can while pursuing what they love. His varied acoustic notes and beautiful Mumford & Sons-worthy voice have a relaxing effect on listeners.

Vance Joy’s new album is the perfect companion to a trip to the beach or a mellow study session. While this is only his first studio album, its cohesive, mood-boosting tracks signal the start of a long and successful career.

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