Eight years since the release of his last record In Our Nature, Swedish singer songwriter José González is back with his latest album Vestiges & Claws. For fans who may have been anticipating a kind of nouveau, re-invented González sound, this album will be a disappointment – not because it is poor, but because it is so typically José González. While music trends and most listeners’ tastes have transformed considerably in the last eight years; it seems that José González has resisted all temptation to conform, and instead has self-produced a strong album, true to himself and his sound.
González’s music transcends popular culture; it is not that he is an apolitical figure, in truth he is quite the opposite; it is more that his music ponders the bigger questions – choosing to consider philosophy and nature – “every age has its turn, every branch of the tree has to learn… take this seed, take this spade, take this dream of a better day” – instead of the inconsequential everyday.
The self-produced album has a raw, organic feel which resonates throughout the record.González’s classical guitar and whispy vocal combination creates a mellow, dark and dreamy sound. In other cases, this minimalist resonance could be in danger of sounding like dull background music; yet there is something about González’s immense talent and true conviction that makes his work intense and effective.
The album opens with haunting track With The Ink Of A Ghost; the song sets the precedent of what is to follow throughout the rest of the record. José González uses only his own voice and an acoustic guitar to produce a deep and imposing sound that is both impressive and engaging.
If you are looking for an upbeat album filled with anthemic songs and feel good moments, Vestiges & Claws is probably not the way to go. González has created a solid album where the sound is unique but not original – pleasant but not pushing. There are anecdotes about life and death, life in the wild, and life as a notion.
José González has a steady sound, and a steady attitude towards creating music. Unlike in his work with Junip, he has failed to experiment with sound on this album. It is no secret that González has created epic and magnificent compositions on previous projects, therefore the perpetually placid nature of the record has higher impact. The steady sound is a statement rather than a failure; and it truly is a statement worth noting.