Seven years after he produced his last album, Jose Gonzalez, a Swedish-Argentinean singer and songwriter has returned with a dark and essential piece. His first two albums were soft and embodied folk rock to categorise Jose Gonzalez alongside other singers like Elliot Smith and Nick Drake. “Vestiges and Claws” is armed with experimental arrangements and classical guitar that is strangely tuned together with human body percussions.
In this record, he does not wander far away from his usual influences. It comes as a surprise that after seven years, he has not changed at all. This record is not any different from his last album that was titled “In our Nature”. In Vestiges and Claws, Gonzalez draws his influences from the life around him, whether it’s the daily human interactions or nature. He does not appear to want to make sense out of the stars: he only cares about the tangible things. This is not new territory for Gonzalez, “In our Nature” explored naturalism and evolution, he concentrated on progress in his previous album but now, he is just admiring the view.
The imaginary concept of nature is evident on the opening track titled “With the ink of a ghost”, on this track, he sings about walking in thick mist with his guitar producing some peaceful but haunting sounds. On “The forest” he vividly describes the mountain landscapes and the rain: he comes off as a person who is amazed by the beauty of nature making him forget all the other bad occurrences. The use of a flute in this song is commendable as it complements his descriptions and vocals.
Vestiges and Claws contain contemplating and captivating messages just like the musical detail. The album has metaphorical phrases and rhetorical sayings in each and every song. In the track, “What Will”, where he derives the name of the album, he wonders what our legacy will be, whether our will is free or whether people just lazily accept the norm. A feeling of prescience is present in his heavy questioning: this song is six and a half minute long with counter-rhythms that lay on top of each other.
“In stories we build, stories we tell”, he rejects the idea of karma and hell without any reason or explanation. The song has alternating body percussions like snaps and claps that seem to affirm his assertions presented in a whispering voice and a graceful guitar in the background. The message of the record is emphasised in this track.
The album is full of percussive elements, acoustic guitars and his trademark whispering voice. The tracks contain his guitar prowess with some new additions to his sound. This album is self-produced and, therefore, he has maintained a level of rawness in the songs. In every track, the strings buzz and ring: this album is a reminder of the good things that people forget amidst all the bad events happening around us. In the track, “Let it carry you”, he reminds us to find the beauty of being in the world.