words by Vicki Winter
A lot has happened in the last eight years, the USA swore in the first non-white president, Game of Thrones ‘The Red Wedding’ took social media by storm, and our beloved Kanye ‘let us finish’… twice. In the music world we have seen many different phases from trap to dub step to glitch hop, but somehow through all of that, Swedish singer/songwriter José González has stayed true to his roots (pun intended). With the release of his third full-length album Vestiges & Claws, González fans can breathe a sigh of relief that his sound has remained reliably consistent with his previous releases, and the delicate strumming of his guitar, and soft vocals will still take you away to that peaceful place reserved only for him.
The content of the new album however is a little less self-pitying then tracks found on Veneer (2003) or In our Nature (2007), instead choosing to explore metaphysical topics such as our planetary existence and inevitable mortality. González is quoted explaining this concept “I think that might be where there is some sort of common thread on this new record: The zoomed out eye on humanity on a small pale blue dot in a cold, sparse and unfriendly space. The amazing fact that we at all are here, an attempt at encouraging to understand ourselves and to make the best of the only life we have – after birth and before death.”
Another slight change you will find on this album is in the production. González chose to self-produce Vestiges & Claws in the kitchen of his home in Gothenburg, wanting to hold complete control over all of the artistic aspects. In Vestiges and Claws, he has branched out into layers of floating harmonies and organic percussion instead of merely serenading us with minimalistic sounds of a solo voice and guitar. There is a very homogeneous rhythm throughout, which is perfect for a rainy Sunday afternoon of life reflection. In saying that however, we do have a couple of highlights which standout from the rest that we do suggest you melt in to at your earliest convenience.
‘Let it Carry You’ utilises staccato beats to playfully convey the message of appreciating life and the magic of existence “To remind our restless souls of the beauty of being here at all.” ‘The Forest’ sways and dips as González finger picks his way along, with the inclusion of wood wind sounds bringing a beautiful earthy voice to this contemplative tune ‘“Why didn’t I see the forest on fire behind the trees?”. ‘Afterglow’ is written in 7/4 and is possibly one of the better of all the songs due to it’s unpredictability. In this González showcases his immaculate guitar skills amidst natural percussive rhythms.
Finally a mention goes to the second release off the album after ‘Every Age’, ‘Leaf Off/The Cave’. This track is a little more upbeat and has a far more hopeful and encouraging message for the world “let the light lead you out”.
We will admit that you need to give this one a few listens to find the distinction between the tracks, but it’s worth the extra effort to pick out the subtle aesthetics and the simplicity of each tune juxtapositioned with the complexity of the theme. We can’t help but feel comforted by the stability of González, mostly because in a precarious, ever changing world, it’s really nice to know exactly what you are getting.
Vestiges & Claws is available on now through iTunes.
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