Sand, simplicity and shared humanity take centre stage with José González
Equipped simply with a nylon-string guitar and a kind authenticity, Swedish-Argentinian singer-songwriter José González has no issues selling out the biggest venues in London or Sydney or anywhere in between. And although the presence on the stage is physically small, the emotions quickly spread to fill the entire auditorium. And on Friday, the mountains and fjords surrounding Syðrugøta will be their witness.
José admits it himself that the inspiration for his lyrics mostly emerge from the big thoughts that most humans seem to carry - about questions, about life, about love, about death, and the source of our convictions.
In José’s newest album “Local Valley” from 2021, not only are the lyrics in all three of the singer’s languages - Spanish, Swedish, and English - but the music has also increased in tempo and rhythm. Some of the time. Because in similar fashion to his earlier releases, the album ties up with a stripped-down cover of Iranian-Swedish singer Laleh’s exceptionally poignant and simultaneously hopeful ‘En Stund På Jorden’. With the final verse concluding “jag fick hålla dig i handen - når du fick lämna dina drömmar - och försonas sen med tiden - jag fick se dig tacka livet - trots allt, nu kan vi säga - att vi var varit på jorden”, the words perfectly encapsulate José’s humanistic understanding of this life and the questions it evokes. About living life based on the present world we are inhabiting for the sake of humanity in and of itself and the future we are generating instead of ancient or perceived otherworldly ideals.
The local valley itself is visited in the Spanish lyrics of ‘Valle Local’ where you say yes and I say no, I say yes and you say no, and there’s no in-between. In ‘Tjomme’, the Swedish word for “dude”, the messages echo those from earlier tracks ‘Abram’ (2007) and ‘Line of Fire’ (2014) in asking the recipient to think for themselves without relying close-mindedly on others’ convictions.
But at the same time, the messages suggest hope. About the companionship that shines light on your weakest moments in ‘Crosses’ (2006) and about the courage to just act upon your dreams despite your doubts in ‘Cycling Trivialities’ (2007). And in ‘Open Book’ (2015) about accepting our fellow humans with all their history and still choosing to share this life openly with them.
Most of all, though, the music presents an opportunity to witness all that we share with each other through our mutual encounter. With our feet planted in the sand, the waves gently breaking, and the wind sweeping across our faces, we realise that none of our perceived divisions are as real as the sensations we can all experience.
José González plays on the Beach on Friday at 21:00.