I ran for the iPod as the last of the song played over the speakers. I was listening to one of my favorite Pandora Internet radio stations while packing. It’s not very often that a song seizes my attention, but this one did. I heard the final notes of a beautifully plucked acoustical guitar and a soft, lush voice. I jumped over to the iPod, slid the unlock control and looked for the title and artist’s name. I only saw the word “Heartbeats” before it was replaced by the Foo Fighters.
The only word for traveling along Interstate-80 is “mundane.” I call it treadmill driving; it’s like watching the same scene pass by you again and again. It’s mind-numbing. Watching the rows of corn blur by from the car, I turned on the mobile wi-fi and pulled out my iPod again. Maybe I could find “Heartbeats” to see if I might like the entire song.
It turns out that “Heartbeats” is José González’s cover of the Knife song. I knew I would purchase it, but I wondered about the entire album. I have been sulking all summer because I want a new album, a new favorite that I can’t stop listening to. I read the reviews of the Veneer album—all of them raving about how they couldn’t stop listening to it and why isn’t González famous? I looked for song mentions and listened to three samples. (I always pick two from the reviews and then play the first song.) They all sounded pretty great. Turns out, today would be a $10 day; I clicked “buy album” and waited a few minutes for the download to complete.
The first time I noticed a Spanish-influenced acoustical guitar was in Led Zeppelin’s “Going to California.” It was a dreamy, classic rock song. One that despite my usual taste in music, I never grew tired of. I heard actual Flamenco guitarists while in Spain. Later, I fell in immediate amor with Rodrigo y Gabriella and their metal/flamenco style music. (Search the archives for “Rodrigo y Gabriella” to see what I’ve previously said about their wonderful music and Gabriella’s flying fingers.) Most of my musical library doesn’t sound like this music, but I like its complicated yet soothing sound.
José González’s music sounds like classical guitar fused into contemporary chill-out tunes. You can hear him pluck and strum the strings. I listened hard to song after song; all I ever could pick up was a guitar and a voice. Simple. Beautiful.
While I was listening to the new music, I searched for information about the musician. Apparently, José González is Swedish-Argentinean. That’s right—fromArgentina. My musical picks generally come from around the UK, so this was definitely off the beaten path. But, it also seems to be on my new one as well. I thought it was a cool moment–to find an artist who comes from the country that I am going to.
The reviewers were right. Veneer is a great album start to finish, and frankly, to repeat. It blends beautifully from one song into the other, each individual but fitting perfectly into the next. It’s what James Taylor might sound like if he played Flamenco guitars and dubbed his voice over his own voice. This is the sort of music that lets my mind float and think about the universe, which is exactly the soundtrack I was searching for. I can’t wait to let the dreamy guitar fill my ears while I lie under the Milky Way tonight camping deep in the Rocky Mountains.