MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2007|
How fitting that this week, the first week of autumn, sees the release of In Our Nature (Mute) the solo album from Swedish-born singer-songwriter Jose Gonzalez. In Our Nature is the sound of leaves changing and temperatures falling. It’s the sound of the sun hitting you in the face as you wake up on a Sunday morning. Featuring Erik Bodin on percussion, Yukimi Nagamo on backing vocals and Hakan Wirenstrand on keyboards, Gonzalez’s sophomore album doesn’t veer too far of course sonically from his debut album Veneer, but it’s very noticeable how he’s improved as a craftsman of songs.
“Killing for Love” builds itself with a quiet tension while Gonzalez sings “what’s the point of love if it makes you kill for?” This song, along with the first single “Down the Line,” is part of a multi-part video series now available online. Gonzalez’s songs lend itself to a quiet intimate setting like you’re in bed and he’s sitting at the end singing to you.
“Open your doors/Let down your guard,” Gonzalez says on the title track which features a couple of acoustic guitars, light percussion and Nagamo’s vocals. It’s a quiet rallying cry and a last ditch effort for hope in what seems like a hopeless world to many. The surprise track on Nature is Gonzalez’s take on trip-hop group Massive Attack’s “Teardrop.” The cover does what most cover songs should do: not imitate the original verbatim, but give your own slant to it. While Massive’s original sounded beautiful and heartrending, Gonzalez’s sounds more urgent and filled with life.
At the end of “Abram,” you can hear Gonzalez in the background saying “I want to go to sleep.” You may feel this way about the album too. It isn’t because he’s boring, it’s because these 10 lullabies, soothing in ways that recall Elliott Smith for its literate and melancholy nature, feel like warm blankets wrapping around you. One of the best albums of 2007. - Stephon Johnson