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José González w/ Joseph

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Denver Botanic Gardens - York Street

1007 York St

Denver, CO 80206

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José González

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Since releasing "In Our Nature" in 2007, José González has been steadily collecting ideas for new songs.

An album consisting of years' worth of musical sketches might naturally sprawl wildly in production and style, but on "Vestiges & Claws," González has created a collection of songs that cohere just about perfectly. It travels from the glowering, riff-driven 'Stories We Build, Stories We Tell' via the groovy 'Leaf Off /The Cave' to the anthemic 'Every Age.' For those familiar with José's earlier work there is little doubt as to who is behind these recordings.

"I started out thinking that I wanted to continue in the same minimalistic style as on my two previous records," says José. "But once I started the actual recordings I soon realized that most of the songs turned out better with added guitars and a more beat-like percussion, and with more backing vocals. Personally, I think this made it a more interesting and varied album."

The result is less purist, less strict. One can find traces of inspired protest songs and eccentric folk rock here: monotonous grooves and rhythms, frustration and optimism. It's a collection that is simultaneously confident, free and tentative.

Like José Gonzaléz's previous releases, "Vestiges & Claws" was largely recorded in his home and partly in Svenska Grammofonstudion, both in Gothenburg. Chirping birds, creaking doors and off-mic chattering appear on the recordings; however, José is careful to avoid editing out these imperfections -- he wants you to feel the intimacy of the setting.

"It was no doubt a conscious decision to work without a producer. I don't want this to be too polished, or too 'in your face.' Most of all, it's fun to be in complete control of the artistic aspect. Also, I have been inspired by and picked up a lot of tricks from the producers I have worked with in the past. I like to use distortion and let things be a little overdriven, which gives things a warmer sound. Sometimes people complain that my music is too muddled, but I really do not want a modern crisp sound. I'd much rather aim somewhere between Shuggie Otis and Simon & Garfunkel."

He then adds: "Sonically I think it is the sound of softness and comfort that people mostly connect with my music. It happens quite often that people come up to me to tell me that they've used my music to calm their kids."

José has been far from idle in the seven years since the release of "In Our Nature." Besides making two Junip albums and touring the world both solo and with the band, González has been active in the studio in various contexts.

One project in 2013 was José's input to the The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty soundtrack, directed by and starring Ben Stiller. Besides previously released José and Junip songs, the film also contains exclusively written material as well as an interpretation of John Lennon's '#9 Dream.'

Earlier this autumn, the AIDS awareness group, Red Hot Organization, released the compilation "Master Mix: Red Hot + Arthur Russell," where José and guests play a very groovy, sax-laden version of Russell's 'This Is How We Walk On The Moon.' Another of González's cover versions, his classic interpretation of The Knife's 'Heartbeats,' has tallied an impressive nearly 50 million streams on Spotify.

"Vestiges & Claws" is, however, the first album where José has chosen to include exclusively original material, largely revolving around ideas of civilization, humanism and solidarity.

"I think that might be where there is some sort of common thread on this new record: The zoomed out eye on humanity on a small pale blue dot in a cold, sparse and unfriendly space. The amazing fact that we are here at all, an aim to encourage us to understand ourselves and to make the best of the one life we know we have -- after birth and before death. And also, I've been okay with using rhymes this time," González said with a smile. He added, "In general I think that the lyrics are clearer this time. And a little less self-pitying."

"Every age has its turn, every branch of the tree has to learn learn to grow, find its way, make the best of this shortlived stay take this seed, take this spade, take this dream of a better day, take your time, build a home, build a place where we all can belong"

But there is another side to José González's songwriting on this album. The more than six minutes long 'What Will' sounds feverish, tight and angry. 'Stories We Build, Stories We Tell' focuses on a riff and the repeated line, "Ooh they'll get to you, hope they'll get to you," sounding almost threatening.

"Anger is something I have dealt with on all my records, I have noticed that several of my songs have a pissed off, accusatory tone to them. It can be found in several of my older songs too."

Where José's previous albums, "Veneer" and "In Our Nature," might have sounded sparse and barren in parts, "Vestiges & Claws" has an altogether new feeling to it, at once warmer and darker than before. He talks about how he's found inspiration in sprawling 70's Brazilian productions, American folk rock and West African desert blues this time. And how he's decided to waive the principle of having everything on the album reproducible in a live context.

José sums it up, "I've focused more on the role of being a producer this time around, I've spent more time thinking of what's best for the song and the recording."

Joseph

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The sophomore effort from Oregon-bred trio Joseph, Good Luck, Kid is a road movie in album form, an odyssey at turns emotional, existential, and entirely literal. With their intimate storytelling and restless intensity, Natalie Schepman and her sisters Allison and Meegan Closner detail that journey in songs that careen and sprawl and often soar, ultimately spinning a narrative of life-changing transformation.

“The through-line of the album is this idea of moving into the driver’s seat of your own life—recognizing that you’re the adult now, and everything’s up to you from this moment on,” says Natalie. “You’re not completely sure of how to get where you need to go, and you don’t have any kind of a map to help you. It’s just the universe looking down on you like, ‘Good luck, kid.’”

In the making of Good Luck, Kid, Joseph deliberately strayed from the dreamy folk of their 2016 debut I’m Alone, No You’re Not, giving way to a far grittier and more dynamic sound. Produced by Christian “Leggy” Langdon (Meg Myers, Charlotte OC), the result is a nuanced breed of pop/rock built on thick drums and lustrous guitars, heavy grooves and radiant melodies. Despite that bolder sonic palette, Good Luck, Kid remains centered on the band’s crystalline vocal work, including the otherworldly harmonies that suggest a near-telepathic connection among sisters.

Kicking off Good Luck, Kid with the sweeping lead single “Fighter,” Joseph immediately prove the transcendent power of that connection, even as their lyrics speak to a nearly disastrous discord. “That song’s about how our band almost broke up,” explains Natalie. “It’s the story of the three of us wanting different things and dealing with that conflict, and eventually deciding to just keep going.” Driven by a heady momentum, Good Luck, Kid then takes on the breakneck pace of the title track, a gloriously dizzying anthem that channels the raw urgency of desire. But on “Green Eyes,” Joseph shift into a torchy poignancy, echoing the album’s undercurrent of romantic devastation. “‘Green Eyes’ is about wanting to stay with someone but giving them the freedom to walk away, and feeling the pain of realizing that they’re no longer in this with you,” Meegan points out.

On “Revolving Door”—the gorgeously sorrowful centerpiece to Good Luck, Kid—that pain reaches a heart-crushing crescendo. “As we were putting the record together, the arc that emerged was ‘Hope, Betrayal, Rebirth,’” says Meegan. “We put ‘Revolving Door’ at the middle because it’s about that moment of finally realizing ‘Okay, you don’t choose this—you don’t choose me.’ It’s the pinnacle of betrayal, and it’s the turning point for the whole album.”

With the remainder of Good Luck, Kid documenting what Natalie describes as “a rising-up out of the ashes,” Joseph grace every song with the captivating chemistry they first discovered upon forming in 2014. Spontaneously choosing their name on a trip to visit their grandfather in the Oregon town of Joseph, the band got their start playing backyard parties, and gradually amassed a devoted fanbase. Following the release of I’m Alone, No You’re Not—an album made with Mike Mogis (First Aid Kit, Jenny Lewis)—Joseph soon began taking the stage at major festivals like Bonnaroo and touring with such artists as James Bay and Amos Lee. As they brought Good Luck, Kid to life, the Closner sisters expanded on the elegant synergy of elements initially glimpsed on their debut: Meegan’s sharp melodic skills, Allison’s gift for uncovering the emotional heart of each track, and Natalie’s extraordinary songwriting instincts. “Making this album, there were so many times when we’d be trying to come up with the next verse to a song, and Natalie would pull together something amazing completely out of nowhere,” Allison recalls. “It’s like she’s some kind of magician.”

In reflecting on the quiet metamorphosis chronicled within Good Luck, Kid, Joseph hope that the album might spark a similar evolution in listeners. “For me this record is about stepping out of being a victim, and I’d love for it to help people feel like they have the power to change their own lives too,” says Meegan. In the spirit of that well-wishing, Good Luck, Kid closes out with a starkly arranged but unforgettably tender benediction called “Room for You.” “My best friend recently had a baby, and as I was holding him I had this feeling like, ‘I never want you to hurt, ever,’” says Natalie. “I love the idea of ending the record by sending people off with that message: ‘I hope the world makes room for you and your dreams.’ I know that an album can’t ever fix anything, but I hope it can be a balm whatever’s hurting, and helps people feel like they’re truly believed in.”

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1007 York St

Denver, CO 80206

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