Music

José González: Veneer

David Bernard

The O.C. discovers the next Nick Drake. His blood's Argentinean; his passport's Swedish; his music is mope-folk; your reaction is pleasant.


JosÉ GonzÁlez

Veneer

Label: Hidden Agenda
US Release Date: 2005-09-06
UK Release Date: 2005-04-25
iTunes affiliate
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

José González's sound is a mix between Nick Drake and João Gilberto. It's based partly on his heritage. He was born of Argentinean parents in Sweden, where he is currently loved and adored. That Gilberto comparison relates to González's use of a classical guitar to create a bossa nova sound. The Nick Drake similarity is immediately obvious. I hate to admit that I was introduced to him through the Volkswagen ad like the rest of us 20-somethings not quite old or hip enough to find him on our own. But that's the case. Taking a page from Drake's Pink Moon, most of González's album features only vocals and a finger-picked acoustic guitar. Apart from a brief snippet of trumpet on the closing track and González's own stark percussion on a few more, that's all there is. Also mimicking Pink Moon, Veneer is barely 30 minutes long and has only 11 tracks.

Pink Moon was and is effusively gushed over. People seem to forget that some of the songs sound half-finished and that even many of the completed ones aren't spectacular. Yes, moments are glorious, but it's far from perfect. Veneer borrows so heavily from that aesthetic that it even keeps the half-formed songs. "Remain" and "Lovestain" are two such tracks. They are both very good, but their lyrics are repeated mantras instead of narratives or sketches. "Heartbeats" and "Crosses" improve dramatically upon those repetitive tracks. In fact, they're two of the most gorgeous songs I've heard all year. "Heartbeats" is comforting and cool. It evokes the best aspects of Peter Gabriel's love songs, showcasing González's double-tracked vocals and allowing the monitoring levels to distort them lightly during louder moments. "Crosses", once featured on Fox's The O.C., has the most adventurous melody on the album. Unlike the other songs, which are often hypnotic and pleasant, "Crosses" is actually kind of catchy. Also it's one of the few songs you'd enjoy singing to yourself at odd moments of the day, seeing as how, "Don't you know that I'll be around to guide you through your weakest moments" is infinitely more comforting than a lyric from, say, "Save Your Day": "Poke the body with a stick/ Roll it down/ Ignore the moaning as it tumbles to the ground." Sheesh. What a downer.

Minimalist in music and vocals, the album is also minimalist when it comes to artwork. The front cover and back cover each show one hand-drawn image: a squarish/map-like ripped object on the front and some guy contemplating journeying on a humpbacked escalator on the back. What? Don't strain too hard thinking about it, or you might just pop a blood vessel in your brain. Luckily understanding the artwork is not essential to understanding the music.

The lyrics, likewise, seem to have been given a supporting, minimalist role. Still, some moments could be better. "Remain" has only two lines: "We'll remain after everything's been washed away/ By the rain we will stand upright as we stand today." That's it. "Lovestain" features a similar lack of verbosity. In these two songs, the sections are simply repeated in a loop. The vocals become louder or softer as Gonzalez's mood dictates. While these songs are intriguing in a certain respect, they cannot match up to the more developed tunes on the album, more complex in regards to lyrics and music. "Hints" proves that when there's more than one line in a song, there's more opportunity for an excellent couplet: "While the crowd is waiting for the final kiss/ The one which allows them to sleep well."

The remaining songs don't vary much from the preceding ones. The cohesive vision for the album makes it a mood record. It's equally excellent for background music during a game of Scrabble or, for more amorous listeners, a make out session. Either way, it's an album that longs to be heard, and after you hear it, you'll be longing to listen to it over and over.

7

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image