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Best tunes of 2003: #27 José González “Crosses”

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Much like most people, I came across Swedish singer/songwriter, José González’s debut material two years after it was originally recorded and released. This is because it was two years before “Veneer” saw the light of day outside of his home country.

Gonzàlez was in the middle of completing his PhD in biochemistry when, after years of performing in various bands, his solo work caught the ear of Joakim Gävert and he was signed as the first artist to Gävert’s new record label. The PhD was dropped in favour of a focus on music and a 7” single was soon followed by the aforementioned debut long player. He has since released three more solo albums and two albums as part of the indie rock band Junip.

“Crosses” was the second single to be released off of “Veneer” and was my own gateway to Gonzalez’s indie folk sound. I remember first seeing the video late one Friday night on MuchMusic’s The Wedge and finding it perfect for that time and place, went searching it out online. I was happy to find that the song is indicative of the rest of the album’s sound, mellow and intense and austere, just Gonzàlez and his acoustic guitar. But “Crosses” is particularly haunting and harrowing, contrasting the menacing and violent plucking against gentle fingertip brushing styles at different and key points. Meanwhile, González leans into the mike, singing to himself about the crosses we are all carrying, as if reassuring himself that his own sadness will be short-lived and that the sun will return eventually.

In 2006, Gonzàlez was enlisted by English electronica duo, Zero 7, to provide vocals to a number of tracks on their third studio album, “The garden”. One of these is a remake of “Crosses”, a longer and more drawn out piece that builds to a fulfilling climax. It is the high point on that particular release for me but it’s still not quite as beautiful as the original. Sometimes quieter just creates the right mood.

“Disturbing silence darkens your sight
We’ll cast some light and you’ll be alright
We’ll cast some light and you’ll be alright for now”

And you almost believe him.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2003 list, click here.

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Best tunes of 2010: #23 Jon And Roy “Any day now”

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In July 2010, my wife Victoria and I flew out to Winnipeg to spend a few days with our friends, Sarah and Jorge, and their children. I had been to the ‘Peg a couple of times before with work but this time, it was for pure pleasure and during the summer, rather than in winter when I had previously been there. And our friends were gracious hosts, putting us up in their spare bedroom and playing tourist with us with kids in tow. It was great seeing them and parts of the city I had not seen before but another real bonus for me was getting out to catch a part of the “world famous” Winnipeg folk festival.

Held annually at Birds Hill Provincial Park, it is an extremely well-run festival, right down to loosing the dragonflies the night before it begins to take care of the rampant mosquito problem. One of the features that I found really neat was the daytime “workshops” they held that collected different performers on the same stage to share ideas and songs and perhaps, even collaborate. I caught parts of a couple of these workshops and a full one that was thoroughly entertaining. This last was centred around the theme of hometowns, was led by Winnipeg native, John K. Samson (of The Weakerthans), and also included Works Progress Administration, Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová (of the film “Once”), and of course, Jon And Roy.

So this sunny Saturday afternoon workshop while lazing around in the grass in a Manitoba Provincial Park, all relaxed and civilized like, was my first introduction to Jon And Roy. And yes, “Any day now” was the song that made me sit up and take notice about halfway through the workshop.

Jon Middleton (acoustic guitar) and Roy Vizer (bongo drum) were seated on the stools between John K. Samson and Hansard and Irglová, the two acts I was really there to see. On their third go round (I think it was), Jon And Roy jumped into this head-bopping number that teased both folk and reggae and was so laid back and grooving, it felt perfect in the sun as the dragonflies danced around catching mosquitos above our heads. And man, was it catchy as well. So much so that when they finished, Glen Hansard, upon taking the mike, started right back into that ear worm chorus of “Any day now, any day now, any day now, any day now, any day” and then, dedicated his next song to that one.

And yes, this British Columbia-based group is still a going concern, having released four more albums since 2010’s “Homes”, but don’t let the name fool you, the group is also more than just the duo inferred in their name. Still, acoustic guitar led, laid back folk reggae is their hallmark, and if that’s your thing, you might just want to give them a listen. “Any day now” is a great place to start. And it’s also a perfect song to lead you into the weekend. Enjoy.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2010 list, click here.