José González

Veneer | Mute
By SHARON STEEL  |  June 20, 2006
3.5 3.5 Stars

DELICIOUSLY ACHY: José González's Veneer
José González shuns so much as a backing drum track on this rainy-Sunday bedroom album. Trendy mash-ups and kitschy remixes aren’t his thing, though he isn’t above covering Kylie Minogue or obscure bands like the Knives — the latter, “Heartbeats,” for a Sony ad that broke his name across his native Sweden and Europe. Veneer aches like a facial tic — it’s delicious in the way it hurts. There aren’t any flubs on this debut, just a classical guitar and a silky voice with the fill-in-the-cracks shine of a parquet floor. Thanks to a quiet/loud purr over delicate finger picking, González draws enough comparisons to Mark Kozelek and Nick Drake to earn points for aptitude sans originality, but he’s no copy cat. Latin-American influences kindle well-placed bonfires (“Deadweight on Velveteen,” “All You Deliver”), and classic Americana finds a way in too, notably on “Save Your Day” and “Broken Arrows.” With little help from studio gadgets (or anything else), González puts a premium on the au naturel agony of a songwriter and his black-and-blue heart.

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