nation of two

Stars: 3/5

If you liked Vance Joy's mellow ukulele-laden first album, you’re going to like “Nation of Two.” The best thing about an artist like Joy is he’s nothing if not consistent.

I really liked the dreamy trend that seemed to dominate 2015’s biggest hits. It was a good break from the sugar-sweet anthems from Meghan Trainor and the Iggy Azalea and Nicki Minaj hip-hop bops. Taylor Swift’s award-winning, alternative-inspired album “1989” was a breath of fresh air. She chose Vance Joy to be the opening act on her “1989” summer tour because he embodied the same indie, flower child vibe. He enjoyed moderate popularity that same summer.

“Riptide” was the standout hit of his first album, “Dream Your Life Away.” The song was played on every radio station and every popular television show. His simple lyrics paired with his ukulele-tinged melodies proved to be extremely successful.

Three years later, Joy is still churning out the same pared-down tunes, but he’s adding in a few more elements.

“Nation of Two” still features the same folksy toe-tappers that Joy is known for. However, he has added some depth to his songs. “Lay It On Me” and “Saturday Sun” crescendo into gorgeous horn interludes, which elevated those tracks from dreamy to a bit more powerful.

As for his lyrics, Joy’s themes of love and romance from his first album weave themselves throughout the second as.

The opening track, “Call If You Need Me” is heart-warming, heart-wrenching and absolutely inviting. He obviously likes the woman he’s singing about, but there’s something holding them back. The hint of doubt about his relationship pervades the rest of the album.

I’m a tad disappointed that Joy didn’t take more risks, which is why I didn’t rate the album any higher. He knows his niche and he doesn’t feel comfortable deviating from it. The best artists are the ones who can be chameleons. Joy’s first and second albums are exactly the same, with the exception of more horns and drums in the second. It just isn't enough variety to catapult him to the top.

I want to see him do more than what he’s comfortable doing.

Joy has so much potential. He’s perfected the road-trip playlist staple-style. “Nation of Two” is a solid addition to his discography because it has some great tracks. If he wants to see more success in the music industry, I think he needs to experiment with different styles.

I would hate to see such a talented artist waste away in the shadow of an artist like Taylor Swift.

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