WATCH José González' video for "Leaf Off / The Cave," a performance for and portrait of Sunday Assembly, a non-religious congregation.
Jos Gonzlez's story is rare in modern pop a heartening case of the artist resisting the vicissitudes of musical fashion to carve out a unique, intimate style that is all his own, then defiantly following his muse all the way to the top of the charts.An established star in Scandinavia, Joss critically adored album Veneer is currently bedded down in the UK Top Ten while his single 'Heartbeats continues to trouble the sharp end of the singles chart and its a similar story across Europe. Its uplifting then, in an age of spin, hype and wall-to-wall hyperbole, to note that Joss music has required no lavish production (he records on basic equipment, at home) no exotic packaging or gimlet-eyed marketing strategies, to make it cherished by thousands. For once even the Sun got it right: In a world of musical clones, the Argentinean Swede is a thrillingly original new talent.In purist rock connoisseur heaven, it should always be thus, but, lets face it, when did the last genuine solo troubadour (as opposed to drippy acoustic balladeer) go so swiftly from critical acclaim and cult adoration to international stardom, while still retaining every inch of credibility? Even Bob Dylan had a few problems with the latter! Ultimately, Joss success restores faith in the power of the song and the lone vigil of the singer-songwriter, laying himself bare for our empathetic pleasure. That Jos is still in his mid-20s makes his achievement to date doubly impressive - and his future one of appetising prospects.
Relying simply on his own masterfully eloquent classical guitar and a voice that marries mature assuredness with poignant delicacy, Jos has been creating his inimitable sonic world since the late '90s, though his recording career didnt begin in earnest until 2003. His achingly emotional melodies and thought-provoking lyrics - all sung in perfect, crystalline English - combine in a manner at once familiar (think Nick Drake, Tim Buckley, Will Oldham) and subtly exotic (shades of Brazilian Tropicalia - early Silvio Rodrguez, Cuban Nueva Trova). His songs are so timeless - you feel like theyve always been around - yet theres a clean freshness to Joss music that makes repeated listening an endlessly revivifying delight.Born in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 1978, Jos was bought up in a house that teemed with all kinds of music. His Argentine-born fathers natural taste for Latin American music was only rivalled by a penchant for American and UK pop classics and the eclecticism rubbed off on his young son. After these fledgling dalliances, Jos followed his own path, initially playing bass in Black Flag-inspired rock combo Back Against The Wall, before flirting with hardcore in Gothenburgs Renascence and dipping into indie rock with the unlikely sounding Only If You Call Me Jonathan But these rites of passage only led him back to the voice and six-string, and, after a series of lessons in classical guitar, the beginnings of a very personal style. Vocally, Jos admits to the influence of some appropriately intimate-toned forebears: Eliot Smith, Geoff Farina and Songs:Ohias Jason Molina among them. Hes also happy to point out the positive effect on his music instilled by listening to such disparate artists as Cat Power, Tortoise and Joy Division.
After these tasteful and diverse influences had done their work, Joss rise was meteoric. After untrammelled Scandinavian success in 2004, Jos signed to London-based indie Peacefrog, releasing his UK debut, the EP Crosses, in February 05. Press hosannas and some jaw-dropping, heartstring-tugging UK shows set off the proverbial buzz and by the time the debut album Veneer was released in April, word had spread like wildfire. With the press salivating, radio went into meltdown, with more plays on BBC Radio 1 than a play-listed record! Sessions were recorded for everybody from XFMs John Kennedy to Radio 4s Loose Ends and there was also a rapturous live session for Radio 1s Zane Lowe that culminated in a wondrously singular reading of Massive Attacks 'Teardrop.Touring in support of the album, Jose reinforced his magnetic qualities, tantalising his live following with another magnificent make-over Kylies 'Hand on your Heart, which has to be heard to be believed. By the time he embarked on another major UK tour in February 06, Jose had capped twelve months of incredible live shows including a support slot to the Dalai Lama in Sweden - which may just have pipped other bills shared with the likes of Arcade Fire and Juana MolinaMeanwhile, another cover, 'Heartbeats (originally by Swedish band The Knife and a Veneer highlight) was gaining wide UK currency thanks to its use in the high profile Sony Bravia TV campaign, helping usher it into the upper echelons of the UK chart in January 2006 (it was even a ringtone Number One!). Jos played 'Heartbeats on Top Of The Pops in January and was the subject of a Channel 4 TV documentary titled Orchestra Of One in early February.Still full of energy, Jos is currently hunkered down with his other project, the band Junip, working with a premier league UK production duo (details to be unveiled in the very near future). The words 'world, 'his and 'oyster spring to mind(text by Peacefrog)