José González

Stay in the Shade

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José González's debut album, Veneer, showcased an artist with an already firm grasp of songcraft and a real gift for displaying tender emotions without any hint of preciousness. On his 2006 EP Stay in the Shade, González has made subtle changes to his sound, expanding the scope the music and becoming more direct with his voice. It works very well, much like Iron & Wine's very similar transition. Of the five tracks on the EP, "Stay in the Shade" sounds most like a track from Veneer, because it is a re-recorded (and slightly better for it) version of a song that appeared there. The rest of the disc is filled with some fine songs that benefit from González's new approach. "Down the Hillside" features percussion and background vocal harmonies as well as González's most open and easy sounding song to date, far less introspective but no less affecting. "Sensing Owls" also features bongos and the same sense of expansiveness that is even stronger on his breathtaking cover of Kylie Minogue's "Hand on Your Heart." González could have a strong career just reinterpreting dance-pop tunes (his cover of Knife's "Heartbeats" on Veneer and this prove it), but judging how strong his first two records are, he also seems set for a long run as a sweetheart of the Quiet Is the New Loud set.

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