album reviews

José González
Mute/Imperial Recordings (2005; r.2006)
Juana Molina
Domino (2006)
The Only Thing I Ever Wanted
Domino (2006)

Folk musician José González's background could be a bit misleading: Although he was born and raised in Sweden of Argentinean descent, his sparse, acoustic songs sound as if they could have been recorded in any American bedroom. His bittersweet, confessional vocals are instantly reminiscent of Elliott Smith and Indiana's Rivulets, while his warm guitar tones recall Red House Painters' Mark Kozelek. But González manages to sound familiar without sounding common: His distant vocals on "Hints" add to his mystery, while the melancholy "Lovestain" is bound to break hearts.

Fellow Argentinean Juana Molina has a more traditional South American feel on her fourth album, "Son." She sings in Spanish, and the rhythms of her electro-folk have a Latino flair. She accents her guitar-driven songs with hints of nature: Birds chirp faintly in the background of "La Verdad," while keyboard sounds in "Un Beso Llega" mimic the buzzing of bees. Some of Molina's songs are a little too long (one stretches to almost nine minutes), but her pure, breezy voice remains more captivating than tiresome.

On London electronic duo Psapp's "The Only Thing I Ever Wanted," it's easy to tell who contributes what: Galia Durant sings with a voice that's simultaneously direct and detached, while recording engineer Carim Clasmann adds bleeps, chimes and squeaks. Their partnership is a remarkably charming union, with songs as catchy as they are quirky.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 30 June 2006, Page WE07
.: Items mentioned above on Veneer (José González, 2005 r.2006); Son (Juana Molina, 2006); The Only Thing I Ever Wanted (Psapp, 2006).