Review: José González – Vestiges & Claws


José González

Vestiges & Claws (Mute/Imperial)


You only need to take a cursory look at the release history of Sweden’s José González for it to be apparent he’s a person who likes to take his time. Vestiges & Claws is his third solo album, released a full twelve years after his debut, but it’s this measured approach to songwriting that lends his music a considered framework that comes across as at once delicately intimate and sturdy enough to bolster a compelling set of tracks.

Despite having spent the majority of is time over the past two years focusing on his more immediately rhythmic Junip project with fellow Swede Tobias Winterkorn, González never seems to have lost sight of where he operates best – with nothing more than a guitar and a microphone, and Vestiges & Claws is a testament to this.

Opener ‘With The Ink Of A Ghost’ breezes in with the unmistakable finger pick of González’s nylon strings before his close breathy vocals form the compressed, raw neo-folk sound that can’t help but conjuring up a lost pastoral.

‘Let It Carry You’ sees González amp things up by way of pushing a more energetic force in to his delivery and deploying some well placed, but understated percussion and harmony to the song, the half way point breaking with a wash of multi-tracked vocals drenched in reverb that sits closer to his output with Junip, but the immediacy and energy still lie in the subtle intricacies.

Recent single ‘Leaf Off / The Cave’ is a definite stand-out as the steady build gives way to sturdy hand-claps and a driving melody that includes the closet thing to a sing-along chorus González has produced so far. But Vestiges & Claws yields the most rewarding tracks at its end. ‘Vissel’, a compact instrumental, shows what González can really do with his ‘less is more’ ethos as the spacious melody and distant whistles are filled to the brim with warm atmospherics and tape hiss, the equivalent of a cinematic group hug. ‘Afterglow’ provides the wake up call with twisting, intertwining rhythms and winding, pacing minor chords that see González producing the kind of track that could happily sit alongside anything on Devendra Banhart’s Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon.

Vestiges & Claws sees González in a more measured and mellow mood, concentrating on an increasingly direct form of lyricism and slightly darker atmospherics compared with his previous two albums, but needless to say, it’s certainly been worth the wait.

Vestiges & Claws is out now on Mute/Imperial.

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