Jose Gonzalez
In Our Nature
2007
B



there’s something strangely endearing about José González’s morose and fatalistic croons on In Our Nature. Maybe it’s his underwhelming vocal range making each song comfortably singable. Maybe it’s how the album sounds simultaneously familiar, yet alien. Or maybe it’s because González sounds as if he truly feels what he’s singing, asking you to share his downtrodden temperament through his soft-spoken moans.

In any case, you can rest assured that José González is a friend; the roommate that will listen to you bitch about how McDonald’s got your order wrong. All he asks in return is reciprocated friendship and a bit of time to listen to his problems. In Our Nature is just such a moment.

He lays it all out on “Fold” singing, “Please don’t let me down this time” amidst stomping pedal tones and soft, plucked guitars. González rains this sentiment over the entirety of In Our Nature before this blatant outcry towards the album’s close. But from the disc’s outset, it’s obvious he needs assistance. On “Down the Line” he admonishes, “I see problems down the line / I know that I’m right / I see darkness down the line / I know it’s a fight.” In an act of sheer altruism though, he repeats, “Don’t let the darkness eat you up,” diverging from his own fears and steering you in a safer direction.

With his constant brooding, you’d think González’s minimalist songs would occasionally sound repetitive and formulaic. You’d be wrong. Throughout In Our Nature, González takes similar cuts and breathes distinct life into each one. The entire album is covered in cocooning acoustic guitars and soft, lullaby melodies but there’s something unique about the dark plodding of “Abram” and the rolling, fingerpicked “The Nest,” even though the structure of each track seems remarkably similar.

This is due, in part, to the album’s incredible pacing. Splitting the album is González’s cover of the Massive Attack classic “Teardrop.” Taking the electronic masterpiece into his own hands, González builds wave after wave of acoustic onslaught, crescendoing into a mass of sinusoidal guitars and elevating vocals. And then it immediately mellows to the aforementioned “Abram,” settling back into the satiny landscapes of the album’s first half.

“Cycling Trivialities,” In Our Nature’s epic end, plays as the denouement to the internal struggle González seems to confront on the disc. “So where is this leaving me? / When it all comes down, recycling trivialities” he sings, realizing he’s finally overcome, seeing his problems as trivial and personally recycled rather than an endless, inescapable pattern. He joyously repeats “recycling trivialities” until the album comes to its end.

But maybe then, his inquiry is more a practical one than introspective. Where does this leave González? In Our Nature seems to have effectively rid him of his demons, without which the album would’ve never found inspiration. Yet, it feels certain that González will be back with something else, some new problem that he’ll have to relate. And maybe that’s why he’s so captivating.



Reviewed by: Chris Gaerig
Reviewed on: 2007-09-27
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