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coverpic flag Sweden - Full Moon 227 - 03/05/15

José González
Vestiges & Claws
Imperial Recordings / Playground

José González is one of Sweden's finest folk-singers/songwriters (Sweden, with a link to Argentina where his family came from). Indie with a twist and turn into the indie-rock world, that is. The young González started his musical carreer in the hardcore/punky areas of rock, before landing in a more quiet field. With his solo debut album Veneer (Imperial Recordings) released in late 2003 in Sweden (the album came out a year-and-a-half or two years later in Europe and the US) his carreer took off. The album (and his splendid take on The Knife's "Heartbeats") spiralled him upwards, (almost) to the stars. His second album, In Our Nature (Imperial/Peacefrog Records/Mute Redords) came out four years after his debut album, and it was fairly hailed by the critics and loved by his fans (even though it wasn't a better album). I must say it's brave to cover Massive Attack's (feat. Elisabeth Fraser) "Teardrop". Maybe too brave (I'm not sure if I like it that much). It's also brave to do Bronski Beat's "Smalltown Boy" (as he did for a single b-side). Actually I think I prefer the latter cover before the former, but I say 'no, thank you' to the original...

Since releasing In Our Nature in 2007, José González has been 'steadily collecting riffs and ideas for new songs', according to his label. But, mind you, he hasn't been lazy. Yes, it's been more than 7 years since his last album, but in the meantime he has been part of the duo Junip (who are González - on vocals and guitars - plus his musical comrade Tobias Winterkorn - on Moog synth and organ). They have put out two albums: Fields (Mute 2010) and Junip (City Slang/Mute 2013), and they - and he, solo - have been touring the world. González was involved with the soundtrack for the movie The Sectret Life Of Walter Mitty (2012. Last year he contributed a song to Master Mix: Red Hot + Arthur Russell (González also contributed to the Red Hot Organization's 2009 album Dark Was The Night, where The Books feat. González did a Nick Drake cover). Before and after he prepared, worked on and finished his third album. Imperial Recordings: 'An album consisting of seven years' worth of musical sketches might naturally sprawl wildly in production and style, but González has [with Vestiges & Claws] created a collection of songs that cohere just about perfectly.' True words, indeed. Compared to his first albums, Imperial calls the new record to be '..less purist, less strict..', with 'traces of inspired protest songs and eccentric folk rock..'. Plus holding 'monotonous grooves and rhythms' as well as showing 'frustration and optimism'. As the album was mainly recorded at home in Gothenburg (in his kitchen), there are 'imperfections' to be heard. Such as 'chirping birds, creaking doors and off-mic chattering'. González avoids cosmetic editing by deleting such 'additional sounds', or 'noise', which gives his songs and the recordings authenticity as well as intimacy and intensity.

The ten songs of Vestiges & Claws make his best album so far, I think. It has this warm sound, like it's been created and made with a human touch. González is his own producer, like he usually has been. With an added dash of distorted and twisted sound vibes, giving the album a certain edge. The songs sound mild, but they are also rough behind the mild facade. Within the attitude of the songs, within the lyrics. Through the guitar, and through the sometimes sting or bite of his normally chilled and calm voice. His music ends sounding like something, somewhere near a strange brew mixture of Nick Drake, Cat Stevens, Paul Simon, and Beck. Add some carefully hidden Latino tinting and even some Afro-music toning to the overall American folk singer landscapes. Yet, it's unmistakably a José González record. To namedrop a few personal highlights, I'd say "Let It Carry You", "Every Age", "Stories We Build, Stories We Tell", "Leaf Off / The Cave" and "What Will". The album is solid as rock and it's soulfilled, with a heart of gold. Gimme indie folk!

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