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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
José González
Veneer
Mute [reissue]

Rating: 8/10 ?


April 6, 2006
[The following definition is taken from Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary.]

Trou-ba-dour n (ca. 1741): one of a class of lyric poets and poet-musicians often of knightly rank who flourished from the 11th to the end of the 13th century chiefly in the south of France and the north of Italy and whose major theme was courtly love.

Lately, the term "troubadour" has been applied frequently and without true regard for what it really implies. The whole "knightly rank" thing certainly doesn't apply anymore, nor does the specific geography. The point, though, is that many listeners - probably myself included - have used the term to describe average musicians who strum acoustic guitars and sing sappy songs. There needs to be a line drawn.

I wouldn't outright call Jose Gonzalez a troubadour because this idea doesn't offer proper coverage of what his style is all about. Gonzalez is from Europe - Sweden in fact - and was raised by Argentinian parents. He doesn't come off as obviously European - he sings the entire album in English with no accent of any sort - but by the looks of his website, he doesn't leave Europe very often to tour.

Gonzalez's style is shaped by his soft, finger-plucked guitar and gentle vocal melodies, and the entirety of Veneer harbors variations of these two elements. Essences of flamenco, bossa nova and American and Spanish folk music can be heard mixed throughout the eleven tracks, which are each subtly composed but also truly exceptional compositions.

Unlike revered American folk artists such as John Fahey and Bob Dylan, Gonzalez, for the most part, doesn't drag through his album set. He progresses through songs with confident acoustic guitar lines and minimal instrumentation like soft percussion and trumpet. He typically plays a single guitar rhythm part through the verses and drops down an overdub only in the case of bridges, and seldom on a chorus. Gonzalez switches between dancing-note, upbeat melodies ("Lovestain", accompanied by on-the-beat handclaps) and a style of moody, dark playing ("Slow Moves") that eventually showcases his exposure to many non-Western musical styles.

He also balances the importance of his indie-pop bastardized, Fahey-style guitar and a vocal tender not unlike Elliott Smith's: somewhat powerful, but more impressionable as 'confident while mopey'; a great many of his lyrics play to this side of effective, self-introspective vagueness.

"A compromise between honesty and lies/To lead me past, their sly disguise/My moves are slow but soon they'll know," say the beginning words of the album's first track, "Slow Moves." Behind Gonzalez's voice and over his emotion-culling guitar parts, these lyrics seems like they could have more substance or personal edge tied into them instead of just acting as the carrier for the singer's catchy vocal melodies.

Jose Gonzalez is not quite a troubadour, but possibly something altogether more compelling.

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Originally released by Hidden Agenda in 2005.
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Reviewed by Josh Zanger
Joshua Ian Zanger, a native of rural Chicago, rocks many a world with his writing, style, and generally sweet aroma.

See other reviews by Josh Zanger

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