With his new album,“Vestiges & Claws,” Jose González is
finally ending the seven-year wait since the release of his last album, “In Our Nature.” His new album is a beautiful compilation of dynamic acoustics and therapeutic vocals, and it stirs some nostalgia for González’s older records. Fortunately, it is well worth the wait.
“Vestiges & Claws” offers the same nylon fingerpicking and hushed tones of González’s earlier albums while subtly demonstrating his post-hiatus maturity. This maturation is no doubt a result of González’s experience since his last solo album, which includes two full-length albums as Junip with Sweden’s Tobias Winterkorn, contributions to the AIDS benefit album “Red Hot + Arthur Russell,” work on the soundtrack to “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and multiple globetrotting tours. Most notably, elements of his electro-folk project with Winterkorn creep their way into songs like “Leaf Off/The Cave,” weaving in a little kick of energy throughout the record.
Navigating through the landscape of middle age, the Swedish Latino grapples with the inescapable change brought by time, and contemplates the meaning behind man’s existence. The subject matter drifts from the introspective material found in previous albums “Veneer” and “In Our Nature,” to grander
The opening track, “With the Ink of a Ghost,” sets up the subdued and gloomy atmosphere that pervades the album. Circular picking patterns ring mysteriously before swiftly rising into confident expression, only to draw listeners back down into the abyss of uncertainty. González’s search for meaning manifests through rich natural imagery laced skillfully throughout the record as he sings, “Oh she runs, from the deepest valley past the sun.”
Songs like “Let It Carry You” and “Leaf Off/The Cave” betray a fleeting optimism, encouraging release of the weighty realities strung through the LP. González approaches ideals reminiscent of transcendentalist thought, whispering on “Let It Carry You,” “Dissolve into the foam/Of things near, of things gone/To remind our restless souls/of the beauty of being here at all.” Hand clapping, finger snapping, foot tapping and group chanting accompany the shifting narrative with a pinch of excitement that is sure keep the listener engaged.
González never resolves his ambivalence over grasping truth and letting go, allowing unsettled thoughts play out by themselves. Without a trace of resolve or consolation grounding the wandering mind, he professes in “The Open Book” that he remains “A drifting vessel in the storm/pushed around from shore to shore.”
For all his music’s relaxing lull, González’s poetics and universal ponderings make salient points about the way things are.
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Feb. 18 print edition. Email Jacob Patrick Fox at [email protected]