A chronically shy Swede, whose entire album consisted of hushed acoustic ballads, may not have seemed one of the more sure-fire commercial propositions a couple of years ago. Yet, thanks to a several hundred bouncing colourful balls on a Sony advert, José González became one of the more unlikely success stories of last year, due to his soundtracking the ad with his version of The Knife‘s Heartbeats.
The resulting album, Veneer, became one of those albums who seemingly everybody owned, which has made the follow-up a pretty big deal.
In Our Nature isn’t so much a sequel to Veneer, but rather a continuation. The same gently brushed percussion features, as does González’ impressive finger-picking acoustic guitar and sombre vocals, while the pace is stately at best – only Down The Road really picks up to a trot.
Where it does differ though is that González has become a bit less lyrically obtuse – well, a little bit at least. The standout Killing For Love appears to tackle politics and war (“What’s the point if you hate and kill for love”) while the mesmerising title track pleads “put down your guns”.
There’s even the obligatory cover version on here, although González’ version of Massive Attack‘s Teardrop doesn’t quite hit the emotional mark that his renditions of Kylie Minogue‘s Hand On Your Heart or indeed Heartbeats did. While his other covers see him completely reinvent the song and call it his own, Teardrop just sounds a bit like a Massive Attack song but on acoustic guitar. It also doesn’t help that nobody can sing the song as well as Liz Fraser does.
Like Veneer, a deep sense of sadness cloaks In Our Nature – whether it be the austere Fold with its devastating “please don’t let me down this time” chorus while the closing Cycling Trivialities seems to have a mood of foreboding about it that builds up masterfully over its 8 minutes.
The only criticism that one could have of the album is that there’s not much sense of evolution or development. Of course, nobody is going to expect González to go all nu-rave on our collective asses, but the slow pace means that although the album lasts just half an hour, it seems a lot longer.
If you liked Veneer though, it’s a cast iron guarantee that you’ll like this. José González may not be doing anything any differently, but he’s also not doing very much wrong.