Though Sweden’s José González has been around a while, and in a number of different outfits, he actually hasn’t released a ton of material, just a few solo records last decade, some stuff as ‘Chilly Gonzales’, and 2010’s Fields (QRO review) in his group Junip. Still, his alt-folk has found acclaim, for being more than just your ‘run-of-the-mill’ stripped Swedish alt-folk. With Junip, he certainly reaches to be even more than that, by adding tech elements that don’t always fit so well.
Note that this isn’t the case for opener “Life of Fire”, as the tech elements aren’t there yet, and instead one ‘just’ gets some nicely relaxed & resigned loss, with just a touch of haunt, that grows into evocation. Unfortunately, as the best and least tech track on the album, it kind of shows what González can do without technology. However, after that, González puts restrained tech backbeats behind restrained folk on pieces such as “Suddenly”, “So Clear”, and “Head First” – none are bad songs, but feel a little off.
Then there are the pieces where synths come to the fore – “Your Life, Your Call” is smoother & better, but the following “Villain” is a little obvious in its beats and tones. Yet Junip does end fairly strong, with the interesting stark-tropical “Baton”, slow & distorted “Beginnings”, and smaller & sadder “After All Is Said and Done”. Still a good record, one can’t help but feel that González stepped a little too far outside his (and our) comfort zone.