JOSE GONZALEZ > In Our Nature

Jose Gonzalez made it hard on himself. The classical guitar virtuoso hit it out of the park with Veneer, the 2006 breakthrough that highlighted his sharp, concise lyricism and trademark hypnotic guitar work. Irresistible tracks like “Crosses,” “Lovestain” and “Deadweight on Velveteen” displayed a radiant young talent establishing his singular voice, while others like “Stay in the Shade” hinted at the influences he holds dear-Nick Drake, for one. 

Label: MUTE
[Rating: 3.5]

Jose Gonzalez made it hard on himself. The classical guitar virtuoso hit it out of the park with Veneer, the 2006 breakthrough that highlighted his sharp, concise lyricism and trademark hypnotic guitar work. Irresistible tracks like “Crosses,” “Lovestain” and “Deadweight on Velveteen” displayed a radiant young talent establishing his singular voice, while others like “Stay in the Shade” hinted at the influences he holds dear-Nick Drake, for one. Fact is, there wasn’t a miscue among the album’s 11 songs, which only grow more passionate and overwhelming over time. Gonzalez’s memorable cover of The Knife’s “Heartbeats” alone is worth twice the sticker price.

By comparison, In Our Nature feels somewhat hollow. It’s at times haunting, and often overflows with profound searching and yearning-but overall Gonzalez seems much less assured on this new effort. Consider his seething stance on Veneer: “It’s not what it seems/Vulgar when brought to light.” Now he returns with far less venom and more acceptance: “I see problems down the line/I know they’re mine,” and “You’ve got a heart filled with passion/Will you let it burn for hate or compassion?” Such introspection, of course, is a mark of personal maturity, but it makes for less compelling material.

This isn’t to say that Gonzalez’s guts aren’t lit with fire. The opening “How Low,” “Killing for Love” and the title track pulse with his fierce, spellbinding brand, and more patient turns such as “Teardrops” and “Fold” offer a welcome vulnerability. “Please don’t let me down this time,” Gonzalez pleads on the latter, “I’ve come a long way to just fall back into line.” Apply the uncertainty of that sentiment to the whole of In Our Nature. While it doesn’t step backward into the status quo, the album also isn’t as adventurous and carefree as Gonzalez can be.

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