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José González - Local Valley Music Album Reviews

José González - Local Valley Music Album Reviews
After six years, the Swedish singer-songwriter returns with another soothing album of sweet indie-folk murmurs. Spare electronic beats bring a new pulse to his sound, but the voice remains the same.

José González never sounds like he’s in a hurry. He takes his sweet time both in song and in life: The gap between the Swedish songwriter’s third solo album, 2015’s Vestiges & Claws, and fourth, Local Valley, was long enough to encompass the entirety of Trump’s presidency, several Lorde rebrands, and some 13 King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard albums. Empires rise and fall; celebrity marriages come and go. Yet the basic elements of González’s sound have been more or less preserved in amber since 2003’s Veneer: sparse arrangements, intricate acoustic fingerpicking, gently philosophical lyrics, and a plaintive voice that’s halfway between a murmur and a croon. Never freaky enough for the freak-folk movement nor chronically chill enough for the Jack Johnson dudes, González carved out his own niche, imbuing his music with a sense of timelessness that’s impervious to trends but also susceptible to a sameness that can be stifling.

Recorded at González’s bucolic home studio near the Swedish coast, Local Valley brings no grand reinventions, but does gently tweak the songwriter’s approach and inject a little rhythmic bounce into his songwriting, making for a livelier, more playful album than Vestiges & Claws. The record opens on a sleepy note, with home-recorded birdsong ornamenting the new-age reveries of “Visions” and guitars rustling like a delicate forest in the hymn-like “Horizons.” None of the first four songs rise above a pleasant murmur. But somewhere around “Head On”⁠—a standout track that’s as close as González gets to a protest song, with stomping handclaps egging on his jabs at “corrupt oligarchs” and “power snatchers”—Local Valley picks up the pace.

An English-speaking songwriter born in Sweden to Argentinian parents, González has always been a cross-cultural talent. In interviews, he has emphasized the fact that Local Valley is his first album to contain songs in each of his three languages. First single “El Invento” combines Spanish lyrics with one of his trademark open tunings, while both “Tjomme” and the album’s sole cover, “En Stund På Jorden,” a song by the Iranian-Swedish pop singer Laleh that he has pared down to its barest essence, are sung in Swedish. Covers are a longtime González tradition, but for an American listener unfamiliar with Laleh, the latter song could easily be mistaken as one of his own.

Yet the album’s most surprising element lies in the uptempo rhythms and electronic pulses that spice up the album’s back half. González spent some time tinkering with a DM1 drum-machine app on his iPad, which livens up the tempos and brings a welcome bounce to mantra-like grooves like “Lasso In.” “Lilla G,” written for González’s young daughter, is a dreamy folktronica reverie buoyed by lovely, soft-focus harmonies and well-deployed whistling. And “Swing” is the biggest departure for the songwriter, owing both to its goofy lyrics (“Swing your belly, baby,” he exhorts over and over) and its prominent reggaetón beat.

González has said the song’s Caribbean style reflects the music he likes to listen to at home. But his foray into beat-making—particularly on “Swing” and “Tjomme”—feels perfunctory at best. He has dabbled in electronic textures before; “Cello Song,” his 2009 Dark Was the Night collaboration with the Books (covering Nick Drake’s song of the same name), was excellent. These new songs are energizing for González, but they lack that sense of genuine discovery, of a songwriter being lifted away from his usual comforts. Instead of letting the drum machine reshape his songwriting, he mostly uses it as a metronome.

Local Valley returns to pastoral quietude in its final moments, with the tranquil “Honey Honey” essentially serving as a duet between González and more chirping birds. It’s a lovely little sendoff, even if the main emotion it provokes is a desire to visit the Swedish countryside. For González, I imagine, it sounds like home.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
José González - Local Valley Music Album Reviews José González - Local Valley Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Friday, October 08, 2021 Rating: 5

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