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Jose Gonzalez

+ {Junip}

Born 31st July 1978 and raised by Argentinean parents, Jose grew up playing classical guitar and Brazilian bossa nova in the chilly environs of Gothenberg, Sweden. Although influenced by punk/hardcore (he even released a 90s single with Renascence for the label Destination), the JOSE GONZALEZ that people raved over in the mid-00s was an entirely different proposition, laid-back to the point of being horizontal.
Post-millennium, the swarthy Swede was still concentrating on the domestic market, initially recording as JUNIP (with Tobias Winterkorn and Elias Araya) before striking out as a solo artist via a series of singles and low-key debut album, VENEER (2003) {*8}. With a voice so unobtrusive as to be beyond low-key, the focus was on GONZALEZ’ close-mic’d, heavy-fingered and engagingly ragged acoustic picking, a post-modern update of 70s avant-folkies NICK DRAKE, AL STEWART, ELLIOTT SMITH and MARK KOZELEK.
The record finally saw a UK release in spring 2005 on prog-techno label Peacefrog, although it never really took off until Jose’s sublime cover of The KNIVES’ `Heartbeats’ was used on a striking Sony/Bratvia TV ad (the one with the coloured balls bouncing around a San Franciscan street). Both the single and the album went UK Top 10 in early 2006, making him into one of the most unlikely indie pop stars of his sad-core generation. Clocking in at just over 30 minutes, the album did manage to achieve its goal through songs like `Remain’, `Crosses’, `Lovestain’, `Deadweight On Velveteen’ and `Stay In The Shade’. One cut not included on this watershed neo-folk album was a reading of KYLIE MINOGUE’s `Hand On Your Heart’, not his only cover as he’s attempted such perennial gems like `Love Will Tear Us Apart’ (JOY DIVISION), `Born In The U.S.A.’ + `The Ghost Of Tom Joad’ (BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN).
Having churned out the odd vox for electro kids ZERO 7, Savath & Savalas and PLAN B, it was time for GONZALEZ to get back to solo, singer-songwriter ground; he was once touted as a one-man SIMON & GARFUNKEL. IN OUR NATURE (2007) {*6}, was another restrained and introspective set and his first on Mute US. Soothing, melancholy and a little more passionate than its predecessor, the UK Top 20 album featured the anti-war/political `How Low’, the singles `Down The Line’, `Killing For Love’ and his acoustic take on MASSIVE ATTACK’s `Teardrop’.
Regaining indie status through JUNIP once again, Jose, Tobias and Elias were back in the proverbial limelight once again, this time complemented by a long-awaited debut set, FIELDS (2010) {*6}. Not exactly building on team-boy GONZALEZ’s folk credentials (could be termed as folktronica), the platter touched on melancholy but upbeat jazz beats and Kraut-rock with the exceptions being `Always’, `Without You’ and `Don’t Let It Pass’.
On the back of a solitary Finnish-only solo single in 2012, entitled `Cycling Trivialities’, Jose preferred the comfort of band life in JUNIP. As intriguingly trippy as it was crystalline and sweet, the eponymous sophomore set, JUNIP (2013) {*7} was released in America and Germany; Britons would have to be content with downloading from the net. The urgency and intensity of the climactic prog-folk opener, `Line Of Fire’, was matched by the sheer pop of `Walking Lightly’ and `Beginnings’; wee treasures from a trio that should be taken seriously in their own right.
Despite being posted missing for several years or so (with the exception of a Chainsmokers remix of `Step Out’ for 2013’s The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty movie), a solo JOSE GONZALEZ was still a marketable commodity on his third Top 50 entry, VESTIGES & CLAWS (2015) {*7}. Approaching music from his own outside-the-box perspective, the autumnal singer/songwriter hardly broke sweat on the fingerpickingly-good `Let It Carry You’ and opener `With The Ink Of A Ghost’. Drawing on the likes of NICK DRAKE, PAUL SIMON, CAT STEVENS and a borrowed blueprint of 70s acousticity, the horizontal GONZALEZ captured the essence of clap-your-hands cool with further mood-swing mantras `Leaf Off / The Cave’, `Stories We Build, Stories We Tell’, `Afterglow’ and `What Will’.
© MC Strong 2006-2011/GRD-GFD2 // rev-up MCS Apr2013-Feb2015

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