José González: Local Valley (Mute) | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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José González

Local Valley


Sep 17, 2021 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

If indie folk had to be defined by one song and one song only, José González’s cover of “Heartbeats” (originally a mediumistic, Björk-like romp by Swedish duo The Knife) would be a formidable choice to summarize the warm, sleepy nature of the genre. Direct, calm, and romantically flourished, González’s doubled voice blends perfectly with his thoughtful guitar playing. Since then, González has continued that tradition, releasing three meditatively simple albums that further established him as a force of soporific folk. His fourth studio effort, the dynamic Local Valley, is just as calm and enjoyable as one would expect.

Local Valley is a tale of two vibes: the verby, measured acoustic tranquility of the first half (highlighted by “Visions,” “Horizons,” and “Lasso In”) and the almost tropical, mythical second side (framed delightfully by “Lilla G,” “Swing,” and “Tjomme”). González still retains the subtle, folksy delicacy of his earlier records, but contrasts that tonality with a more experimental, Latin-inspired burst of energy.

Whichever side of the coin a particular track lands on, González glides through each arrangement effortlessly, galloping through quick acoustic changes on “Head On” and reverently appreciating the wonders of the planet in Swedish on the stunning “En Stund Pâ Jorden.” “Line of Fire,” the record’s 11th song, is equally haunting, thanks chiefly to a starkly intimate mix and an honestly pensive call to action (“If put to the test/Would you step back from the line of fire?”).

As a songwriter, González is as familiar as he is mysterious; between his distant delivery and layered whispers, it’s hard to tell whether he’s a dear friend or a mythical, shadowy figure. That sense of cerebral juxtaposition is, in part, what makes him so enchanting; it’s often difficult to tell whether or not González is a friend or a foe, making each track an exercise in self-reflection.

In many ways, Local Valley is José González as he’s always been: thoughtful, comforting, and ruthlessly personal. Like any good work of indie folk, González’s voice and guitar blend together as one, creating a uniquely placid experience. It’s sleepy, acoustically sound, and definitely worthy of its place in González’s already impressive catalogue. (

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