Foy Vance – Joy of Nothing
Stadium-ready folk music has hit it big in the last couple of years. Mumford & Sons have definitively broken America, while The Lumineers have achieved radio ubiquity on the back of Hey Ho. As a result, it seems like the perfect time for the return of Foy Vance. The Northern Irish singer has taken his time recording the follow-up to 2007’s Hope, spending much of the intervening period touring with the likes of David Gray and Ed Sheeran.
The aforementioned Sheeran makes an appearance on Joy of Nothing, in a duet with Foy on the album closer Guiding Light. It’s a dusky, string-laden affair that Foy has taken to performing as the encore to his concerts, and it’s easy to see why. The track pretty much demands that lighters be held aloft, but it also exemplifies the record’s key problem: the emotional crescendos for which it strives never quite feel genuine.
Much like Mumford & Sons or Coldplay (who occupy a similar space in the rock field), by aiming for the anthemic, Vance loses any sense of intimacy. It’s certainly an immaculately produced record; the acoustic guitar and violins summon a safe, adult contemporary sound that sits squarely between the folk of Vance’s homeland and the Americana of Wilco and Co. The melodies are catchy and Vance’s voice is pleasingly husky – slightly reminiscent of Van Morrison – which somewhat compensates for the banality of his words.
On the record’s title track Vance name-checks a number of artistic greats, including Serge Gainsbourg and Socrates, whose insights into the human condition draw rather unflattering comparisons with Vance’s penetrating assertion that “the joy of nothing is a sweeter something”. The record’s one shot at grittiness comes in the form of You and I with Bonnie Raitt, an American country star who has been in the business for some 40 years. Sadly she’s relegated to the role of backing singer, which is such a dismal misuse of her talents it’s tempting to imagine her appearance as nothing more than a shot at garnering stateside buzz.
Marcus Mumford would be proud of Joy of Nothing: it recalls his talent for writing melodious folk-rock that never once steps outside of its comfort zone. As a result, it ends up not really saying much.
Joy of Nothing was released on 26th August 2013, you can order it here.
Watch the video for Joy of Nothing here: