The airwaves fell in the love with the sentimental ukulele ballads of Melbourne-based Vance Joy (aka James Keogh) in 2013. Following the release of the hugely successful ‘Riptide’ from the God Loves You When You’re Dancing EP, Joy dominated the international charts and sold out headline tours across Australia. On the back of countless festival appearances, Vance Joy has returned home to release his new long-awaited debut album Dream Your Life Away.

Dream Your Life Away was mostly recorded just outside of Seattle with producer Ryan Hadlock (The Lumineers, Gossip) with a handful of songs being finished off in a tree house on the studio grounds, thus cementing its grounded feel. The album; whose title borrows its name from John Lennon’s ‘Watching The Wheels Turn’, contains some of Joy’s earliest compositions. The first single ‘Mess Is Mine’ contains a catchy drum beat, with Joy’s restrained vocals contemplating the excess baggage a relationship can involve.

Naturally, ‘Riptide’ (pieced together on a dirt-cheap ukulele) surfaces on the album early. It’s joyous, catchy riff may have been played to death already, but it bleeds nicely into the album, which also promises a few mainstream hits. Although most tracks present themselves as the usual soft, romantic ode with gentle guitar strumming, there are occasional exemptions with shifts to more upbeat tempos like ‘Red Eye’. Presumably the second most radio-friendly song on the album, Joy trills his way through pre-frequent flyer jitters over steady chord progressions.

The lyrics of ‘First Time’; “You’ll find out the deepest cut is the first time” are a blatant, rearranged homage to Cat Steven’s classic ‘The First Cut is the Deepest’; with its heartache-virgin themes. The regretful mantra “all I ever wanted was time” can only be associated with the rush of success, and is sung with cliched and fanciful lyrics that lend themselves to a more pop-based rhythm. The angsty themes of the top and tail tracks bookend the album, with tried-and-tested warm acoustic guitar tones juxtaposed against melancholic, introspective vocals (even if it does get a little monotonous at times).

Joy’s winning formula – organic sounds and poetry – is the distinctive heart of Dream Your Life AwayThe album has even fluidity throughout, and on the whole, passes as easy listening with an excusable smattering of repetition. Being the latest indie-folk darling of the airwaves is no longer a rarity with the genre now prevalent, but Joy handles his unique sound with confidence. For a first album, he’s done a good job capturing the essence of simplicity in his down-to-earth explorations of love and loss. By pitting raw, pleading vocals against simple musical production, Joy has the cosy makings of a new, quintessential Australian storyteller.

Dream Your Life Away is available to pre-order via iTunes now, with the album’s official release scheduled for September 5th through Liberation.

7/10