There seem to be two versions of José González. The Swedish-born folk singer burst onto the scene in 2003 with his debut Veneer, captivating audiences with his hushed, Nick Drake-inspired ballads. Veneer and its follow-up, 2007’s In Our Nature, went on to sell over one million copies combined worldwide and established González as a household name. How could he possibly top all this success? In 2010, González answered this question with something of a stylistic curveball: He reformed his old band Junip and decided to start all over again.
Granted, Junip preceded González’s solo career by a good half-decade, having formed in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1998. They never recorded any material, and when González stepped into the spotlight, the band effectively dissolved. Attempts to revive it over the years took a backseat to touring commitments and schooling for the other two band members, Tobias Winterkorn and Elias Araya. Ten years later after its start, Junip finally began to take shape–tentatively, at first. The band’s sound began to gel not through songwriting but improvisation. And you can certainly hear that spontaneity; Fields, Junip’s 2010 debut, is a sprawling affair, punctuated by buzzing synthesizers, complex-yet-understated drumming, and González’s distinctive voice.
Junip returns on April 23 with their self-titled second album, and it’s a perfect follow-up: Bigger, bolder, but rooted in the trio’s unique sound. Distorted stompers sit side-by-side to more experimental epics, and the record unfolds piece by painstaking piece. Still, the group finds time for the kind of straightforward folk-pop that González first made his name on. “Your Life Your Call” sounds like a dance hit with the volume turned down, pushing the rhythm to the forefront while González’s nylon string guitar colors the edges. It’s these kinds of surprising combinations that will make it hard for González to ever leave Junip again.