Full disclosure: I was highly anticipating Vance Joy’s new album all summer. As soon as I heard that it was going to be released in September, I clicked “Pre-Order” faster than a Jimmy John’s delivery. When I first heard “Riptide,” released on Vance Joy’s EP, God Loves You When You’re Dancing, I fell in love with the soulful ukulele player from Australia. And so did America. It hit the U.S. Top 40 chart, as well as reaching #1 on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart.
Plus, I’ll admit, I have a little bit of a crush on the former Australian football player and law degree student. I stood in line at Lolla just to get his autograph on God Loves You When You’re Dancing, and I won’t lie, that was the peak of my summer. Quiet, tall, and curly-haired, James Keogh, the singer-songwriter behind Vance Joy, has that appeal about him, the guy you want to take home to meet mom and pop.
However, Keogh’s debut with Dream Your Life Away fell short of expectations. The songs seem to all revolve around tropes about love. Out of 13 tracks on the album, how many literally use the word “love?” Ten. Ten songs. And the rest don’t directly use the word love but they’re definitely talking about it. Honestly, I expected a lot more, and a lot better, based off of Keogh’s EP.
The first song, “Winds of Change,” is a quiet beginning to the album. Still, it’s a decent effort, featuring some nice harmonization. It introduces the theme of this album – love, and not just any love. The love that isn’t there. I guess, if you were Keogh’s girlfriend, this would be the pinnacle of your relationship. But as a listener, it gets sort of exhausting.
The second track, “Mess Is Mine,” is one of the shining songs on the album. It’s very similar to current pop-folk hits (aka Mumford and Sons). Keogh’s earnest, sad voice fits this melancholy song perfectly.
The next song has a few lines that sums up this album perfectly. In “Wasted Time,” Keogh sings, “But I, I’ve got a lot to say / But I’m scared / You’re gonna slip away.” Still, even though, *cough cough* this song is still about doomed relationships, it’s still one of the better ones on the album.
“Riptide” was also released in this collection. It’s the shining jewel in the crown, possibly because the metaphors and the imagery are so floaty and catchy that everyone can easily fall in love with it. “I was scared of dentists and the dark / I was scared of pretty girls and starting conversation.” But notice, he isn’t singing about someone as much as singing to someone. It mixes his tone of talking to a girl, and talking about a girl that comes together perfectly.
After the first four songs, however, the tolerability level of the others goes down. “Who am I, / Without you?” Keogh sings in the next song. Who knows, Keogh. All we know is that you’re full of puppy dog love. “From Afar” is a relatable, sad song, and is one of the last good ones on the album.
The album definitely starts to get boring by the time we hit “First Time,” and it absolutely sags with “All I Ever Wanted,” which sounds like a cheap country tune, minus the twang.
The last track, “My Kind of Man,” is a much-needed reprieve from the ghastliness of Keogh’s crush. It returns to the melancholy tone of a boy who can’t get what he wants. “Find the thing / that you love / Find the thing that you understand,” is almost Keogh’s reminder to himself that this girl isn’t the end of everything.
Dream Your Life Away isn’t even an album you can cry to. It’s almost like an album your middle school boyfriend would write for you, citing your blue eyes and changing feelings for his inspiration. And whoever Keogh is writing about, he’s so ridiculously in love with, you can’t even relate to it. Even though this was a circular album, I look forward to the next album Keogh releases. I just hope that he branches out a little bit.