On Record – José González: Local Valley (City Slang)


reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Local Valley is the first we have heard from José González in six years. His fourth album, it draws on his previous solo work for inspiration, but also his work with Junip, the duo he is part of with Tobias Winterkorn.

González is a modest music maker, by which I mean that he never shouts from the rooftops about his new work. He could have done this after the success of his cover of The Knife’s Heartbeats in 2003, harnessed by Sony for a TV commercial with thousands of bouncing balls on the streets of San Francisco. Yet he chose to let his music do the talking, and continues to do that in such a way that repeatedly draws his loyal listeners in.

What’s the music like?

Like a familiar jacket you find in the wardrobe after a few years without wearing, José González immediately gives comfort to the wearer. His music should not be pushed straight into the easy listening bracket, mind. Although it certainly fulfils that function, there is a lot more depth to Local Valley. It is the sound of a songwriter content with his style but pushing subtly at the limits of his capabilities.

El Invento is immediately back into the familiar González territory of slightly honeyed vocals and languid guitar, casting a heat haze over the listener, before Visions heads outdoors. To the sound of blackbirds, González takes stock of his surroundings. ‘We are here together’ is the mantra at the end, to increasingly dreamy accompaniment.

Once again, José uses his guitar as a miniature orchestra, complementing the vocals with grace and assurance. Horizons is an obvious example, a rippling tremolo from the instrument accompanying the repeated murmur ‘to be at peace’, the listener effectively placed next to a bubbling stream. The following Head On is more animated, the ideal injection of energy at this point, the guitar now turning over its countermelodies.

Freshly energised, González diversifies to include more electronic beats. The hypnotic Tjomme works brilliantly in its combination of soft voice and surprisingly propulsive Afrobeat, while the up tempo Valle Local and Lilla G are similarly enjoyable. The latter, with its easy going loop, could easily spin out for more than double its two minutes.

Does it all work?

Yes. González sees no reason to change his winning formula, but he never rests on his laurels either. His style is at ease with itself but increasingly extravert, intimate but casting its gaze further afield.

Is it recommended?

Definitely. Local Valley offers a valuable respite from our increasingly rabid civilization. It casts a spell immediately, returning the listener 42 minutes later in a far more relaxed condition than when it picked them up. It is a musical therapy session with repeatedly good side effects.




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