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The Spanish Swede & His Colourful Bouncing Balls

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A while back, I was browsing reviews on the indie music bible site Pitchfork, when I noticed a list of the albums surfers search for most often. Up at the top was an album called Veneer by some bloke named José González. I ignored this. After several months of constant Pitchforking, I saw that this José González fellow was still number one in searches, I decided to investigate.

As it turns out his album Veneer was released in 2003; curious that an album was still being investigated by so many “I only listen to the newest shit” music nerds some 4 years later. The review for the album gave it a 7 out of 10 and explained that although the album was released in oh three in Europe, it took several years before it got noticed and subsequently re-released in North America in 2006.

José González was born in Sweeden to Spanish parents, making for a very interesting accent on his vocals. His music is emotive guitar picking ballads a la Nick Drake with a touch of Spanish guitar influence. In a word, it’s beautiful. Once I heard Veneer I was hooked. It’s a delicious feast all the way through, but for me, the songs Hints and Crosses are by far my favourite dishes.

I didn’t have to wait long before González released his second full length In Our Nature. Overall a more upbeat but slightly weaker album than Veneer, it is also an amazing disc. A cool highlight on this one is a cover of Massive Attack’s Teardrop.

Again, being out of the loop, it was well after the fact that I learned what José González is best known for. While sitting in my office listening to Veneer on my iTunes I was forwarded this:

. . . a commercial for Sony Bravia TVs. This is the ad with all the colourful balls bouncing down a steep San Francisco street. A gorgeous spot, but when I first started watching it I thought I had forgotten to pause my music. I hadn’t forgotten: the José González song Heartbeats is the soundtrack for the ad. This is also a big reason for his slow rise to fame around the world.

In the past few months I have seen him play twice; at the Mod Club and the Phoenix. Both shows were impeccable. He performed completely solo at the Mod Club, just him on stage with guitar in hand and some sort of foot drum for percussion. He closed the show with a cover of Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart. It was exactly how I wanted the show to end. At the Phoenix, José was accompanied on stage by a percussionist and a second guitar player who also accompanied him with barely audible vocals. Again he closed the night with another retro classic, but the name of the song and artist escape me.

When I stumbled onto José González his music was exactly what I wanted at that point in my life. I became even more entranced with the beauty of his music because it spoke to me and to the headspace that I was in at the time. This is when music has its most profound impact, when it comes to you exactly when you need it. I hope that his music finds its way to you, and that you hear, within it, the melancholy beauty of life.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. James17930 permalink
    Tuesday, April 1, 2008 1:20 pm

    And Heartbeats is familiar because it’s actually a The Knife song he’s covering.

  2. Tuesday, April 1, 2008 1:40 pm

    I didn’t even realize it was a cover until I started writing this post. The guy loves doing covers, and he does them well.

  3. James17930 permalink
    Wednesday, April 2, 2008 12:57 pm

    I’m hesitant to listen to Teardrop though; I mean, the woman’s voice from the Massive Attack version is so unique and amazing, that I don’t know if I’d ever want to hear those words in another voice.

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