James Keogh, also known as Vance Joy, is increasingly gaining recognition here in the states finally. His brand of indie folk/indie pop might not be for everyone, but it’s quite fresh and unique.
He’s from Australia and although there have been famous bands and singers from that country to cross over into American audiences, those numbers have been few and far in between.
2014 saw the rise of Iggy Azalea, another Australian that undoubtedly has been the most popular Australian export in over 15 years.
Also, remember Gotye from three years ago? How about Kylie Minogue from the ’90s and early ’00s? Or even folk band The Seekers from the 1960s with hits like “I’ll Never Find Another You” and “Georgy Girl?”
Vance Joy is 27 years old and hails from Melbourne. He’s somewhat handsome and comes off a little bit sheepish. However, it’s his music that really radiates.
Even though Vance is from the warm nation of Australia, his music is not all happy and sunny. In fact many of his songs give off a Brandi Carlile kind of vibe, except with a more upbeat tempo despite lyrics of loneliness and longing for love.
His debut album “Dream Your Life Away” was released worldwide and peaked at #1 on Australian Albums chart, #2 on Canadian Albums chart, #17 on US Billboard 200 Albums chart, and top 40 in most other countries.
Opening track is “Winds of Change” is short but sweet. It’s about him waiting for someone he loves to come back home. “Cause this heavy heart, oh, how it’s yearned / cause I’ve been alone far too long / when are you coming home, my love?” You can hear the distinct quiver and roughness in his voice that is present throughout the entire album which sets him apart from similar folk singers.
“Mess Is Mine” was the third single released back in July 2014, but has just been released in the US this month and has already reached #22 on the Hot Rock Songs chart and #31 on the Alternative Songs chart. It’s undoubtedly one of his finest songs. When interviewed by a radio show Triple J Drive last fall he mentioned what the song was about.
“Sometimes when you have a strong melody, it’s easy to write the song. It’s about how when you’re in love with someone, you take on the whole package [that person brings]. It’s messy, but the mess of life is the good thing. The special thing about relationships is taking on the good and the bad and the messy aspects. It’s one of the more direct love songs I’ve written.”
“Wasted Time” is another song that pulls on your heartstrings. It was released as the 5th single in Australia last fall. It’s one of the highlights and features melancholy yet beautiful lyrics. “The things that I thought would last / well they’re fading, they’re fading / the feelings I used to have / well, they’re changing, they’re changing.”
“Riptide” is his most widely known song to date. It was recorded in 2012 and released in mid 2013. Since then it has become a Top 40 smash around the globe, and has finally reached mainstream airwaves here in the US. As of January 17th it’s #33 on the Hot 100, #7 on the Adult Pop Songs chart, and has peaked at #1 on both the Alternative Songs and Rock Airplay charts.
The video was shot in a way that reminds you of David Lynch or Wes Anderson. I declared it the best song of 2014. More often than not he performs this song live with just a Ukulele.
Both songs “Who Am I” and “We All Die Trying to Get It Right” are also great songs with more of the same heartache, but yet they don’t feel like album fillers at all. They just help keep the flow of the album constant. “From Afar” was the first single released from him back in January 2013. It is probably tied with “Riptide” as the best song on the album.
The video for this song is distinctly depressing. It features two stories going back and forth between each other. One showing a picnic of two middle aged couples. The one man is shown to be in love with his friend’s wife, and when his own wife finds out things get messy. The other story presents two teen boys, probably around 19, who are presumably best friends. One of the boys is in love with the other, but the other happens to be in love with this girl. When the gay male finds out his best friend is in love with a girl, he becomes devastated. It’s honestly depressing to watch.
Other songs worth listening to are “First Time” and “All I Ever Wanted.” All in all this album is a success. His songs of solitary and honesty make the album believable. The rawness of his voice is stellar and should solidify him as a future icon of not just Australian folk music, but of folk music worldwide. “Dream Your Life Away” gets a 4.5 out of 5 stars.