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Jose Gonzalez

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  • In Our Nature

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    Jose Gonzalez

    veneer in our nature

    Veneer 9 ( 2005 )
    Slow Moves / Remain / Lovestain / Heartbeats / Crosses / Deadweight On Velveteen / All You Deliver / Stay In The Shade / Hints / Save Your Day / Broken Arrows

    There has been something of a singer/songwriter boom in the UK, of late. An astonishing run of previously unheard of or brand new solo artists emerging and, amazingly, taking the charts by storm. The most famous as I type this is James Blunt. Forever to go down in history as a one hit wonder and with an album only people with no imagination could love. Jose Gonzalez meanwhile is a singer/songwriter from Sweden and makes music that echoes Elliot Smith, The Red House Painters and Nick Drake. The latter comparison has been made too much of in articles i've read, far more accurate are the former two comparisons. Jose's music has spaces in it, the kind of spaces The Red House Painters left in their music. Jose's music is faster and not as unremittingly downbeat as The Red House Painters, though. He shares an intelligence with the best of Elliot Smiths songs, although i'd certainly rate the lyrics of Jose Gonzalez on a higher plain than Elliot Smith's, no offense to Elliot Smith, who was a great artist in his own right. There is a hypnotism to the formula on display here, although formula is something of a dirty word. The guitar work is impressive, understated yet very beautiful guitar patterns, rather than riffs. The lyrics aren't so much forcibly projected as slightly whispered, an air of mystery is maintained throughout the album. There is a possible lack of variety across the albums eleven songs, yet how is this overcome? Why, the album only lasts just over thirty minutes! In many ways, Jose has created something that's so needed in todays society, something the total opposite of whatever guitar band is currently revisiting the 70s, be it early or late 70s. Life is stressful enough without bands celebrating the disturbing problems in society. Jose Gonzalez gives us blissful escapism from anything and everything that may be troubling us.

    The closing track 'Broken Arrows' is something stunning, a solitary brass instrument arrives 1 minute 50 into the track, the song ends 8 seconds later, but it's perfect to raise the song just that bit higher. 'Heartbeats' is a song people will be familar with from a Sony TV advert. I'm not against such things for new artists if they've the talent and songs to back up such exposure. 'Heartbeats' has just reached the top ten of the UK singles charts. I'm blown away by such a great, proper song reaching the top ten, alongside the likes of Shayne Ward ( X Factor/Pop Idol winner ) and whatever novelty hits are currently in the top ten. The opening tune 'Slow Moves' contains a lovely guitar pattern, those delicate whispered vocals hiding lyrics you want to hear, so you listen over and over, still don't know what the song is about, but you start feeling emotions, remembering places and situations, dreaming of future situations and possible bliss. An autumn day with clear, fresh air. Walking through tree-sided streets, beautiful scenery. Few people around, those that are, you smile at, so happy.

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    In Our Nature( 2007 )
    How Low / Down the Line / Killing for Love / In Our Nature / Teardrop / Abram / Time to Send Someone Away / The Nest / Fold / Cycling Trivialities

    Jose Gonzalez continues with his ethos of less equals more with another collection of simple, stripped back minimal folk songs. If 'Veneer' reminded us of Nick Drake, here Gonzalez's tunings and strums take on a nature of their very own. Almost every song opens with a cyclical memorable guitar refrain, mantra-like. The arrangements leave spaces allowing the songs to breathe. As with 'Veneer' then, he resists the temptation to embellish his songs beyond the odd handclap here and there, a hand reaching across the frets, a mere breathe. These sounds become as much part of the music as the vocals and strikingly hummable melodies. The album reaches a pivotal moment however when Gonzalez covers Massive Attack's 'Teardrop'. Whilst it is far better than Newton Faulkner's clunking version, even our Jose can't quite manage to transform the beauty of the original to his own. Liz Fraser's vocal was the real jewel in the crown, not the ( fairly linear ) structure musically. Jose half-mumbles his way through the tune. It's not bad by any means, just not as fascinating or enjoyable as Jose's own compositions. 'Down The Line' for example seems to be forever marching then lightly skipping downwards. It's one of those melodies married to mysterious, haunting vocals that instantly seems familiar, like a soon-to-be, life-long friend. The title-track takes simplicity and hypnotic like powers to their logical conclusion, a tune full of repetition, resignation, and I could listen to the guitar patterns all day long.

    Along with his cover of 'Teardrop', a rare moment of mis-step arrives with the album closer. What initially seems a fascinating conglomeration of bubbling guitar notes ends with needless repetition during the extended outro. Still, no one is perfect and these moments of eccentricity lend an extra human layer to the whole enterprise. It makes everything appear far less calculating than it otherwise might do. You know, just how well do these melodies stick around? There's more melodic strands on this album than certain artists entire careers. 'How Low' is a nicely underwhelming opener, cleverly drawing you in. 'Time To Send Someone Away' features simple handclaps to provide an upbeat musical setting for another lovely sequence of gentle vocal mumblings. It all appears to be oh so easy, yet almost certainly isn't. Whilst 'In Our Nature' isn't quite the breathe of fresh air that 'Veneer' was, it still manages to consolidate the artists reputation. He may never change much beyond what we already have and may face diminishing returns. Yet, let's celebrate his stubborn refusal to 'change for changes sake'. In these modern times, he's someone to cherish.

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    Readers Comments

    Benjamin Western benwestern66@hotmail.com
    Great review, for both albums. What I really like about this second album is how it seems contrasting to the first, yet with what I believe to be one of the richest and most distinctive sounds today in music. I do reflect in theory to your comments about the closer, cycling trivialites....almost long for the sake of it. However, I can't get enough of this song. It truly is beautiful, and I have grown to love it's full 8 plus minutes. At this point in time (late 2007), there has not been a huge deal of new music which has grabbed me this year. It has been left to the second and third albums of some truly great artists this year to make an impact. Jose, with his simple, unchallenging, stunningly crafted second album certainly is one of my highlights of the year

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    this page last updated 29/12/07

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