In the eight years since his last release In Our Nature, José González has continually tweaked his spare, quiet acoustic compositions through his band Junip and contributions to various soundtracks and compilations. While his newest, Vestiges & Claws, doesn’t undertake any significant departures in style, additional layers of guitar and vocals subtly evolve his minimalist catalog with warmer and richer tones. The ingredients of the album are the same as those in González’s previous recordings, just added in greater quantities—leading to a thicker, heartier medley of sonic textures.
With unpolished and no-frills production by González in his native Sweden, Vestiges & Claws makes for an organic and raw aural stew. Often more driving than his typical output (“Let It Carry You” being one of his most coolly urgent tunes yet), the album gives newfound prominence to nontraditional percussive sounds and effects, often in the form of staccato clicks, claps, slaps, and snaps. The resulting rhythms can evoke a variety of genres, such as the slight world-music feel to the sublimely radiant “Leaf Off/The Cave”—a track that fits in nicely with understated elements of choro and African blues sprinkled elsewhere throughout the album.
For the most part, however, González’s influences—including retro Britpop, alt-folk, or experimental rock—all blur into one intimate, delicate muddle, a composite too absorbing for the components to draw much individual notice. He achieves this comfortable synthesis with elegant songcraft and a confidently relaxed execution that shines through even his most hushed and gentle cuts (most notably the transcendental “The Forest,” defined by its meandering woodwinds). Assessed independently, Vestiges & Claws’ progressions may be modest, but its adjustments cohere into a record of uncommonly evocative capacity.