José González - Vestiges & Claws

Still best known for two (albeit excellently judged) cover versions in 'Hand On Your Heart' and 'Heartbeats', Swedish/Argentine songwriter José González has not made much of a splash in the UK mainstream despite various EPs, collaborations and two albums preceding Vestiges and Claws, his third record proper. What these ten tracks are likely to remind anyone who has passed over González in the past is that he is a true talent, possessed of a recognisable voice and skills on the guitar, but a talent that is content with exercising it in quiet, restrained fashion - so much so that it's likely to slip by, forgotten soon after he's piqued your interest again after all this time.

Although a clutch of songs here clock in at five and six minutes, they are still very slight, with unfussy production stripping the sound to two primary elements: González and his acoustic guitar. His way with his strings is often as distinct as his softly soulful way with a phrase, the two creating a kind of pleasant peace that is hard to knock - but equally as hard to get overly excited about. When a flute drifts in on the Orient-inspired 'The Forest' or lo-fi handclap percussion punctuates 'Afterglow', the canvas is opened up ever so slightly and it actually complements the songs rather than detracting from the distilled nature of other tracks here. Instrumental 'Vissel' pairs strummed guitar with nothing but a distant whistling, creating something that's wonderfully wistful but in danger of wafting away and leaving no trace. At times, it's not the only track guilty of this but González's unassuming talent is likely to creep up on you when you least expect it, its muted magic meandering into your dreams.

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Overall

6

out of 10

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