Jose Gonzalez

Mute, 2006

REVIEW BY: Shane M. Liebler


Using elements of classical music in contemporary composition is nothing new to the mainstream. But there’s something about the classical chops that Jose Gonzalez injects into his minimalist music that’s far more captivating and inspiring than, say, symphonic samples looped on a hip-hop track.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Veneer is a fantastic collection of laid-back, inspirational acoustic music. Sweden-based Gonzalez seamlessly combines the finger-blistering accuracy of classical guitar with an introspective voice and content that carries haunting reflections of singer/songwriter Nick Drake.  It’s a headphone masterpiece.

The soft-spoken Gonzalez reaches a pinnacle on “Crosses,” which in his distinct style ebbs and flows with delicate, but effective, string punctuation: “Don’t you know that I’ll / Be around to guide you / Through your weakest moments / To leave them behind you / Returning nightmares, only shadows / We’ll cast some light and you’ll be alright.” My roommate once said the song made him feel like a better person just for listening to it. Each of the 11 tracks evokes similar admiration.

Gonzalez is concise, with most cuts averaging three minutes. Even so, the quiet confidence of the virtually all-guitar record gives it a peculiar and memorable edge. “Lovestain” is an upbeat stomper by Gonzalez standards,while “Heartbeats” is a catchy and thoughtful hit breakup tune borrowed from fellow Swedes, The Knife, that Gonzalez easily makes his own.

The slow-developing “Deadweight On The Velveteen” and up-tempo “All You Deliver” round out a solid middle set that highlights the record, which really never loses its steam.

The lack of pretension despite the gentle genius is Veneer’s most remarkable feature. All told, it’s a great disc for a summer evening on the patio. With headphones on, it may even improve your life, if not your record collection.

Rating: B+

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© 2006 Shane M. Liebler and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Mute, and is used for informational purposes only.