One artist that made the year end list of a lot of readers of this site last year was Jose Gonzalez for his album Veneer. Although I didn't review the album back then, it was a release that I owned for a period of time before sending it away in a fit of selling. It was one of those discs that just didn't grab me on first or even second listen, and I decided to keep on moving.
As with other artists that I've discovered after giving them a second chance, I decided to give Veneer a couple more listens and see what happened. As it turned out, I found it growing on me, revealing a few things that I hadn't heard the first time around when I simply dismissed it as an average singer/songwriter album. The biggest one of these things is a current of intensity that runs through the disc. It's a small nuance, but there's a level of expression that unveils itself a bit more on further listens, and like the title suggests, there's something a little darker lurking beneath the surface.
"Remain" is perfect example, starting out with minimal percussion, fragile guitar and vocals before slowly building intensity throughout. After a quiet bridge in the middle of the track, Gonzalez comes back with a renewed vigor, layering some subtle vocal harmonies and hitting strings so hard they rattle. "Heartbeats" is the single that everyone seems to gravitate to, and it's for good reason, as Gonzalez transforms a song that was once a rather austere electronic pop track from The Knife into an achingly beautiful love song.
Although he keeps things fairly simple, Gonzalez wisely incorporates a few sparse percussive elements into a few songs, such as the excellent "Stay In The Shade." Once again, it's a small thing, but it helps break up the album slightly. For my money, the best track on the album is "Save Your Day," a track where Gonzalez changes up his playing style into more of a heavy, slow strum, but in combination with his vocals, the quietly aggressive track is easily an album standout. A warm and rewarding little album, I'm glad that I gave Veneer a second chance.