Review Summary: Through his simple song structures and impeccable Spanish guitar playing, Jose Gonzalez steps ahead of his modern day contemporaries with Veneer and offers a tantalising glimpse of what he is capable of.
You could make comparisons to numerous singer and songwriters of the past 50 years with Jose Gonzalez' début album Veneer
. Strands of everybody from Leonard Cohen
to Tracy Chapman
to Elliott Smith
rear their head, or are at least imagined. Such comparisons certainly seem warranted, with Gonzalez's unlimited potential seemingly matching these great names at almost every point in the album.
Gonzalez's unique background being raised in Sweden and of Argentinian descent makes for interesting reading, and irresistible fodder for any review of Veneer
. The music itself does not offer quite such unconventional styling, yet nevertheless his technique is very much his own. Sharp Spanish guitars dominate the album, with his melodies twisting and turning with purpose, yet seeming to end where they started, as in Lovestain
. Gonzalez's skill on the guitar is displayed throughout, with his subtle variation in sounds brought to life through his striking precision, testament to his skills as a songwriter. Perhaps one of his closest contemporaries in this respect is Sufjan Stevens
, both artists being adept at crafting simple, subtle and graceful melodies.
Gonzalez's cover of The Knife's Heartbeats
is quite possibly Gonzalez's defining moment on the album, his Spanish guitar following a simple arpeggiated melody whilst his voice floats in melancholy. Gonzalez does not create beauty through bombastic movements, but tries to entice listeners with each small graceful movement. This somewhat minimalist approach to the composition of his songs resonates through much of the album, yet despite this his emotion doesn't remain in check and reserved. Hints
shows Gonzalez at his most animated, his typically precise guitar work instead played with great force. Whilst accuracy is lost, he puts his emphasis on stressing the notes, creating a startling tensity of sound. His voice too shifts away from its hushed confinements, and instead working itself into a fervour. Some will discredit Veneer
, seeing it as entirely planned and devoid of spontaneity. Yet no matter the creation of each song, it would be hard to argue that songs such as Lovestain
and Deadweight On Velveteen
could be categorised as anything less than beautiful.
It is easy to deduce that Veneer
is a début album. Gonzalez's potential for the future shows up in spades, and in songs such as Heartbeats
he shows his unique ability to craft beauty through precision and simplicity. As good as Veneer
is, it still shows room to improve for Gonzalez, who seems only steps away from creating a modern masterpiece. Whilst his song writing and guitar playing precision may be one of his greatest attributes, Gonzalez may only need to put more of himself, his true being into his music. But regardless of what direction he takes in the future, Veneer
offers irresistable melodies, rarely matched in modern music.