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Few can pull on a heartstring as well as Swedish born Jose Gonzalez. An aural explorer of the human condition, Gonzalez hasn't put out a solo album since 2007's In Our Nature but has been busy nonetheless with his band Junip and contributing to one of the better uses of music in film in recent years for the soundtrack to the 2013 film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty . Often armed with an Alhambra guitar (Spain), Gonzalez is known to sing in an articulate way about the infringements and transgressions we as humans commit against not only one another but the environment as well . With Vestiges & Claws Gonzalez brings to the table 10 excellent classical acoustic based compositions that will show just how he's evolved and journeyed since we've last heard from him.
Initially turned off by the lead single "Every Age," a slow ballad in which Gonzalez subtlety implores for unity, Vestiges & Claws rebounds as a whole with a plethora of tracks that showcase an appealing inclusion with nature while also serving as metaphors for human relationships and states of emotion. Take "The Forest" for example, an exemplary acoustic and alto flute piece that features Gonzalez reflecting on the decaying state of a forest. Forest either serving as the literal large area of woodland vegetation or an intangible feeling you get when self-reminiscing about lost love or friendships. "Let It Carry You" features an accompanying kick drum as Gonzalez beautifully sings about birds migrating and the beauty of the night. The kick drum fades into a left ear acoustic dream that slowly crescendos as Gonzalez repeats the line "Let it carry you". Trust me when I say the music does.
Although short, Vestiges & Claws is poignant in its approach. Any hostility harbored by fans for such a length between solo albums is easily dismissed as you appreciate the subtle nuances of craft Gonzalez gets out of his songwriting. "What Will" is the longest here and a pinnacle piece at close to 7 minutes. The song features an easy going acoustic track before breakdown into one of Gonzalez's more musically aggressive tunes. It's here that the album title is finally referenced to great effect and you're left wondering what organism is being reduced in the midst of its own evolution. The album ends with "Open Book," one of Gonzalez's shorter offerings which truly showcases his nomadic charm. A song in which a lyrical questioning of the world leads to a friendly whistle interlude and a signing off that just seems to remind you that though different kinds of human hells exist optimism and hope still shine through as we go about "filling pages one by one in the warmth of other songs".
Vestiges & Claws is a subliminal offering yet one that requires more than a casual ear. Jose's combined acoustic playing and rhetorical lyrical weight shoot for the heart of human reasoning and hit a chord of awareness that is neither antagonistic nor overtly politically critical. Recommended mindfulness.