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José González (Sweden): Vestiges & Claws [Digipak]

Track List

>With the Ink of a Ghost
>Let It Carry You
>Stories We Build, Stories We Tell
>Forest, The
>Leaf Off/The Cave
>Every Age
>What Will
>Open Book

Album Reviews:

Rolling Stone - 3 stars out of 5 -- "[This] subtle, carefully crafted music delivers rewards to listeners who know how to wait."

Spin - "González twists the volume knob up just enough here to sonically divert VESTIGES & CLAWS from its predecessors (or bedroom pop pioneers Nick Drake and Elliott Smith)."

Billboard - "His voice is a singular instrument, warm and textured...and he complements it with circular melodies played on a custom-tuned guitar, working in the astral-folkie vernacular explored by John Fahey, John Martyn and, of course, Nick Drake."

Paste (magazine) - "González's greatest accomplishment on VESTIGES & CLAWS is that his messages are as contemplatively captivating as the musical details he accentuates."

Album Notes

Personnel: José González (vocals, guitar, percussion).

Recording information: Haga, Göteborg, Sweden (2013-2014); Svenska Grammofonstudion, Göteborg, Sweden (2013-2014).

Swedish folksinger José González's third full-length album, 2015's Vestiges & Claws, is a deceptively uncomplicated, poetic, and utterly poignant work. Coming seven years after his last album, the superb and similarly introspective In Our Nature, Vestiges & Claws finds González in a deeply thoughtful state of mind ruminating over such timely albeit universal themes as religion vs. science, the relatively brief length of our lives on Earth, and the heartbreaking complexities of human relationships. Largely recorded at his home studio, with final touches done at the Svenska Grammofonstudion in Gothenburg, the album features González singing and accompanying himself on acoustic guitar with a spare amount of backing percussion, flute, and vocals throughout. While that might sound limiting, González is a musical universe unto himself, employing a fluid fingerpicking style that can sound as tiny as a whisper one second and as big as an orchestra the next. He also writes songs with a such a gorgeous harmonic palette, full of dichotomous suspended chords and lush minor/major juxtapositions, that your ears are never hungry for musical nourishment. Drawing, as he has done in the past, upon such '60s and '70s influences as Nick Drake, Robert Wyatt, and others, González often sounds like an echo of the past, while his lyrical subject matter remains utterly current. Just as he supplies plenty of instrumental food for thought, González proffers an abundance of substantive, existential lyrics. These are incredibly moving songs full of bittersweet asides that strike you at first with their haiku-like simplicity, only to draw you deeper into González's iceberg of ideas. And while he addresses these ideas explicitly in "What Will," questioning "What will it be? Our legacy/Faith in dogma or reasoning," elsewhere he is more imagistic and opaque. On "Leaf Off/The Cave," he turns the biblical Adam and Eve story upon itself, singing "Why can't you/Take the leaf off your mouth/Now that you/Have the facts on your side/Take a moment to reflect who we are." Ultimately, it's this ability to stop you in your tracks and hold you with the warmth of his voice as you contemplate your existence that makes Vestiges & Claws such an arresting, uplifting joy. ~ Matt Collar


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