Synthesizers are modern and exciting with the extent of their versatility, however, it can be refreshing to escape all the complexities of modernity to the refuge of a guy and his guitar. The minimalism of José González’s music is completely deceiving. Vocals that seem to shy away from the microphone and a classical guitar appear to be the only ingredients necessary to create these understated yet brilliant compositions.
The Swedish-Argentine, lo-fi folk artist recorded his first album while still pursuing a phD in Biochemistry, which may explain lyrical themes that touch on natural imagery, evolution, and redemption along with a unique vision of the struggles of the heart. A childhood love of pop music presents itself in the stripped down covers of classic songs such as “Born In the U.S.A.” by Bruce Springsteen, “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division, “Teardrop” by Massive Attack, and “Hand on Your Heart” by Kylie Minogue. These covers along with the Knife’s “Heartbeats” launched José González into the spotlight and his individuality has kept him there.
A master of the classical guitar, his intricate finger-picking can easily make one instrument sound like 3 during a live performance. The only adornment to his voice and guitar are the occasional bongo or backing vocal along with a foot-tap, hand percussion and the subtleties amidst sounds such as a breath drawn between lyrics. In short, José González is subtlety at its finest.
If you like: John Mayer ballads, Ray LaMontagne, Iron & Wine, Nick Drake
Check out: José González (start with Veneer, continue with In Our Nature, and graduate to EPs and collaborations)
Feeling brave: Junip, Emiliana Torrini, Elliott Smith, M. Ward, Zero 7
AI level: Beginner