Album of the Week: Vestiges & Claws by José González - soulful yet cosy

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 March, 2015, 10:42pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 March, 2015, 10:42pm

Vestiges & Claws
José González
Imperial Recordings

It's been quite a while - more than seven years, in fact - since this Argentinian-Swedish singer-songwriter released an album (if you don't count the folk rock band Junip, which he fronts with fellow Swede Tobias Winterkorn). Despite the lengthy period that has passed, it appears nothing much has changed.

Thankfully, the folk troubadour hasn't taken an adventurous stroll down the hardcore path of progression towards wobbly brostep. Vestiges & Claws, only González's third album in 12 years, sees him on firm, familiar ground, comfortable and cosy with his trusty classical guitar in hand.

Emotive lead single Every Age is typically bare-boned, with González in contemplative mood: "Take this seed, take this spade/ Take this dream of a better day." The repeated communal chant of "Let the light lead you out" adds unexpected texture to the snappy folk strummer Leaf Off/The Cave.

González is a master at keeping his delivery arrestingly soulful and poignant, without ever lapsing into sappy territory. His trademark hushed tones are always honest and heartfelt: one moment soothing, the next fragile and haunting. They are a fine complement to the guitar virtuoso's acoustic rhythmic plucking and simple percussion.

The air of spiritual reflection continues on The Forest as González queries over warm flute and a beautiful finger-plucked melody: "Why didn't I see/ The forest on fire behind the trees?"

Recorded in his home studio, González produced the album himself to keep the sound raw and intimate, and on Stories We Build, Stories We Tell, one of the album's many highlights, you can almost hear his fingers bleed as they dance across the buzzing strings.