Mute has announced the release of José González’s new record, Vestiges & Claws. The album, his first in seven years, is out on February 17, 2015 and was produced by González in his home kitchen as well as Svenska Grammofonstudion, both in Gothenburg, Sweden.
“It was no doubt a conscious decision to work without a producer,” said González. “I didn’t want this to be too polished, or too ‘in your face.’ Most of all, it’s fun to be in complete control of the artistic aspect. Also, I was inspired by and picked up a lot of tricks from the producers I have worked with in the past. I like to use distortion and let things be a little overdriven, which gives things a warmer sound. Sometimes people complain that my music is too muddled, but I really do not want a modern crisp sound. I’d much rather aim somewhere between Shuggie Otis and Simon & Garfunkel.”
The result is an album that is less purist, less strict. One can find traces of inspired protest songs and eccentric folk rock on Vestiges & Claws: staccato grooves and rhythms, frustration and optimism. It’s a collection that is simultaneously confident, free and uncertain.
González said, “I started out thinking that I wanted to continue in the same minimalistic style as on my two previous records, but once I started the actual recordings I soon realized that most of the songs turned out better with added guitars and a more beat-like percussion, and with more backing vocals.”
González has been far from idle in the seven years since the release of his last solo record, In Our Nature. Besides making two Junip albums and touring the world both solo and with the band, González has been active in the studio in various contexts. One project in 2013 was José’s input to the The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty soundtrack, directed by and starring Ben Stiller. Besides previously released José and Junip songs, the film also contains exclusively written material as well as an interpretation of John Lennon’s “#9 Dream.” Earlier this autumn, the AIDS awareness group, Red Hot Organization, released the compilation Master Mix: Red Hot + Arthur Russell, where González and guests play a very groovy, sax-laden version of Russell’s “This Is How We Walk On The Moon.”
“I think that might be where there is some sort of common thread on this new record: The zoomed out eye on humanity on a small pale blue dot in a cold, sparse and unfriendly space. The amazing fact that we at all are here, an attempt at encouraging to understand ourselves and to make the best of the only life we have – after birth and before death. And also, I’ve been okay with using rhymes this time,” González said with a smile. He added, “In general I think that the lyrics are clearer this time. And a little less self-pitying.”
Where Veneer and In Our Nature, might have sounded sparse and barren in parts, Vestiges & Claws has an altogether new feeling to it, at once warmer and darker than before. He talks about how he’s found inspiration in sprawling 70’s Brazilian productions, American folk rock and West African desert blues this time. And how he’s decided to waive the principle of having everything on the album reproducible in a live context.
González summed it up, “I’ve focused more on the role of being a producer this time around. I’ve spent more time thinking of what’s best for the song and the recording.”