Recording under the stage name Vance Joy, Australian singer/songwriter James Keogh was vaulted to international attention in 2013 when the second single from his debut EP became a surprise multi-platinum hit in his home country. The easygoing, ukulele-led "Riptide" continued gaining traction, cracking the Top Ten in several European countries and even making waves in the U.S. The major labels quickly came calling, with Atlantic offering Keogh a purported five-album deal. Not a bad start for the former pro footballer who abandoned the sport to follow his artistic muse. With the global might of Atlantic at his back, the man now known as Vance Joy delivers his debut album, Dream Your Life Away. Built around the centerpiece of "Riptide," the album offers up a dozen or so additional songs in that familiar mold of romantic, introspective, acoustic folk-pop. Musically, Joy falls somewhere between the laid-back surfer charm of Jack Johnson and the bearded earnestness of the Mumfords' nu folk scene. Much of Dream Your Life Away focuses on gently picked lovelorn pleas and somewhat uninspired romantic phrasing with tracks like "Georgia" and "First Time" being some of the more ponderous offenders. Joy's melodies throughout are fine though not particularly memorable and, regrettably, that could describe the record in general. As shown by the initial success of "Riptide," many fans will be willing to embrace another tender-voiced folk-pop crooner, but the material here seems a bit too middle of the road to really distinguish him from the crowded pack of similar young bards. With its sweet harmonies and strong build, the album's most engaging track, "Winds of Change," is smartly placed at the top, setting an enjoyable tone of promise that doesn't quite deliver over the remaining 45 minutes.
AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger