Kirkwood High School student newspaper

Pion-Ear: Alt J

October 23, 2014

Pion-Ear: Alt J

Dream Your Life Away by Vance Joy is a seamless compilation of 13 tracks, ranging from catchy riffs to soulful ballads. Vance Joy released his first studio album Sept. 9, the first of a five-album deal with Atlantic Records. Many of the songs have repetitive lyrics and similar chord progressions, but the album’s overall unique sound overshadows some of its flaws.

I was first exposed to Joy March 21 when he opened for one of my favorite bands, Young the Giant, at The Pageant. I bought his EP on iTunes the day after the concert, and the songs have been on my ‘favorites’ playlist ever since.

Joy gained popularity in 2013 from the song “Riptide” listed on his debut EP God Loves You When You’re Dancing, released March 2013. The song has sold more than 435,000 downloads and has reached top charts and was certified triple platinum by the Australian Record Industry Association.

Though he is widely known by his stage name, Joy’s birth name is James Keogh. He borrowed the name from a character “Vance Joy” in Bliss, a novel by Australian novelist Peter Carey. While Joy is viewed as an individual musician, he is accompanied by three other musicians in many of his songs, including drummer Edwin White, keyboardist Chris Mulhall and bassist Jono Colliver.

Dream Your Life Away features two songs from Joy’s EP, “From Afar” and “Riptide.” Other songs include “Mess Is Mine” and “First Time,” both in the running to be the album’s most popular songs. Also worth noting are the music videos Joy’s creative and entertaining music videos; “Play With Fire” particularly hits a tender chord and is a great music video.

While many love the oh-so-popular “Riptide,” one of the best tracks on the album is “Who Am I.” Note: it is not a modern rendition of Jean Valjean’s proclamation in Les Miserables (though that’d be pretty dang cool), but rather a song questioning who a person is without family, friends or significant others. The song’s self-reflecting lyrics and catchy tune make it a highlight.

Probably the most diverse song on the album is “We All Die Trying To Get It Right.” Unlike other songs starting of with a strand of acoustic guitar or ukulele chords, it starts off with more of a synthetic sounding electric guitar. The lyrics also reflect on human condition as a whole more than any other song, analyzing normal tendencies of people not usually thought about.

Admittedly, some of his songs aren’t varied in their style and his lyrics occasionally lack  substance. Granted, Joy is a young artist and could and hopefully will use time and experience to develop better songwriting skills.

Overall, Joy’s music is original. Dream Your Life Away’s sound is largely ukulele and guitar led, upbeat and rhythmic and the lyrics of most songs on the album have romantic sentiments. Those elements combined with Joy’s outstanding voice and wide range create a memorable album.

He no longer is an opening act at small venues but is selling out his own shows throughout Europe, the U.S., Canada and Australia. Vance Joy is definitely a musician worth listening to.

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