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Returning with his third solo album, his first since 2007, José Gonzalez has followed on from where his second record In Our Nature left off. Having initially planned to have only one guitar on the record, in a similar vein to his debut Veneer, he chose to incorporate more layers as he progressed with the recording process. A process that was, once again, done alone in his kitchen in Gothenburg, recording onto his laptop. This lack of a producer and studio trickery makes for another wonderfully pure and honest sounding record. One man's vision, presented and recorded on his own terms. However, there are signs that this approach is starting to lead to a lack of ideas and honesty about the quality of songwriting.

Opening track 'With The Ink Of A Ghost' is easily one of the strongest songs on the record. It carries a strong sense of emotion, which is more in fitting with his earliest work. This does however highlight the main weakness of this record. Having reached a stage in his career where he felt strongly enough about his song-writing to release a solo record of entirely original material, Vestiges & Claws seems to lack the emotional and songwriting consistency that has been present previously. For example, 'Let It Carry You' is a lovely song, but nothing more than that. It seems to pass you by without grabbing at your heart strings like you'd hope. The same can be said of 'Every Age' which verges on being dirge like and is frankly quite dull, whereas 'Vissel' is a pointless interlude of a track, containing some very understated guitar and not-particularly catchy whistling.

Thankfully, lapses like this aren't too regular an occurrence. 'Leaf Off / The Cave' demonstrates the benefits of additional percussion to the overall sound. The claps, drums and shakes are minimal and tribal, providing perfect accompaniment to the ever hypnotic guitar lines. The vocals and guitar come together best however on 'What Will'. Over six-and-a-half minutes, Jose demonstrates exactly what he does best. A rolling guitar line twists and twirls with his otherworldly vocals across a dreamy first few minutes before picking up an understatedly infectious groove, coupled with some quirky little guitar licks. His lyrics as every are ambiguous yet strangely thought provoking as he repeats the refrain "what will, what will it be?".

The remainder of the record however is not much more than fine. For a musician who has produced output of such a consistently high-standard for so long, judging himself against only his own high standards and stubbornness, it seems like he may have finally let a natural sense of complacency sneak its way into his creative process, which is a real shame.

Putting aside my unconditional love for José Gonzalez and his music, the truth is that Vestiges & Claws is the weakest album of his career. Although it is by no means a bad record, it just represents the first time that he has lost the emotional power that has previously made him so much more than just a man with a guitar.

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