Album Review: Vestiges & Claws
Perhaps the most striking component of Gonzalez’s performance—whether it’s solo, or with his band Junip—is just how natural his sound is. I don’t just mean that he sounds like a natural musician and vocalist (he does), but that his sound is based in the aural fabric of nature itself: the rustling of leaves, the babbling of brooks, and when his songs build a sense of urgency, even the wild, churning waters of a storm-rushed river. If you find yourself able to extract yourself from the trappings of modern life for the duration of the album and open yourself up to a sense of calm and the possibility of stillness in your thoughts, his gentle plucking, soft vocals, and naturalistic lyrics will bear you up on soft, cool breezes and carry you along over tree tops, through valleys, past the dens of lightly sleeping beasts.
If anything this pastoral sense is even more magnified—no, magnified is too strong and focused a word, let’s say given freer range to roam—on his latest offering, Vestiges & Claws (Imperial/Mute, 2015). Even the song titles bear this theory out: “Let it Carry You,” “The Forest,” “Leaf Off/The Cave.” Coming at the review process from the mindset of a writer of poetry and prose, the symbolism and imagery borne out by the song craft and performance can hardly be accidental, but it is never so deliberate or heavy-handed as to detract from the listening experience or seem overly pretentious, and while the album is certainly consistent in its beauty, Vestiges & Claws is never in danger of becoming boring, nor of getting mired in its own ambition, and this is in no small part due to the immense talent of Gonzalez. He seems to know just when to up the ante, to make things more interesting, to renew his grip on the listener’s attention, whether through deft shifts in tempo, or subtle layering of vocals and percussion that is so well woven into the mix that you don’t even notice its arrival or subsequent departure, but its importance to the overall sonic success of the album is undeniable.
Every Age (Official Video)
A Singer-Songwriter’s Singer-Songwriter
Although attention to detail, craft, and presentation are clearly strong suits, Gonzalez is essentially a singer-songwriter in the classic sense, and this is no insult, but rather a compliment of the highest order (these days there is a very fine line between the two). It is no new opinion to state that what were once widely known as the airwaves (certainly an antiquated notion amidst the demise of traditional radio) are filled past the point of bursting with singer-songwriters whose plentiful numbers have seen their stock drop to a penny a dozen. With his ear for melody and knack for poetic phrasing, I would have no qualms naming Gonzalez in the same breath as legends such as Paul Simon and Leonard Cohen, or contemporary greats such as Bill Callahan, Damien Jurado, and the late Jason Molina.
Vestiges & Claws is a great album, a worthy addition to anyone’s collection, and it will no doubt find its way into the upper echelons of countless end-of-the-year best-of lists.
Top 5 Tracks:
- With the Ink of a Ghost
- Stories We Build, Stories We Tell
- The Forest
- Every Age
- Open Book
If you like Vestiges & Claws, you may be interested in these fine albums:
- Fields, Junip (2010)
- Declaration of Dependence, Kings of Convenience (2009)
- Admiral Fell Promises, Sun Kil Moon (2010)
- Maraqopa, Damien Jurado (2012)
Want to Know More?
For further information on Jose Gonzalez, check out these links:
- Official Site: http://jose-gonzalez.com/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/josegonzalezmusic
- YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/JoseGonzalezOfficial
- Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jos%C3%A9_Gonz%C3%A1lez_%28singer%29
Purchase Vestiges & Claws Here:
© 2015 Jared Duran