Local Valley by José González Album review by Brody Kenny for Northern Transmissions

Mute Records

7.6

José González

Local Valley

Do you keep swearing that you’re going to keep up a regular meditation practice, only to find even 10 minutes a day is asking too much? Then, put on Local Valley, and you should find yourself in a mindful state soon after. The fourth album from Swedish folk musician José González, Local Valley is an album rife with reverence for the details, big or small as they might be.

It’s been six years since González last solo effort, Vestiges & Claws, which arrived eight years after its predecessor, In Our Nature. Local Valley works as both an introduction to new listeners and as a reacquainting with a reliable friend. With elements reminiscent of artists older (Simon &Garfunkel) and newer (Chad VanGaalen), Local Valley offers a refuge for you to be alone with your thoughts in the most constructive manner possible.

And the two primary elements for that blissful concentration are immediately established:González’s voice and his finger-picked classic guitar melodies, echoing together in their own private space that you’ve been granted special access to. With the field recordings of birds on tracks like “Visions” and the trilingual lyrics (mostly in English, but partially in Swedish and Spanish), Local Valley’s greatest strength is how inviting it feels, and not in a hokey, benefit song-type way. González had written most of the album prior to the pandemic, and tracks like the “Visions” and “Horizons,” with its melodies swimming like schools of fish, excel by being just right for this moment, but also other moments, defeated or triumphant. Listen to González sing the “Horizons” refrain of “to be at peace” and not feel your blood pressure dropping even a little bit.

Though there’s plenty of wistfulness to go around on Local Valley, much of it also happens to be fun, both to listen to, and likely, to make. The balanced panning of bird sounds and percussion“Lasso In” gives the production playful character that’s too rare in folk music. González even hearkens back to his time in the Gothenburg hardcore scene with the sloganeering energy driving "Head On." Want to just vibe out on tones without getting caught up in the words of it all? Put on “Valle Local” and let González’ bassy guitar tones saunter through your ears.

At times, you might wish González had invited fewer ideas over, namely his implementation of drum machines to create techno beats that distract rather than amplify. But González’ thoughtfulness is so tangible that even when something doesn’t quite work, it doesn’t feel like a failure. And as we work to make it through to the next day, week, and beyond, Local Valley is there for us to soak into its empathetic waters.

Order Local Valley by José González HERE