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Photo: Hannele Fernström
Photo: Hannele Fernström

Folk singer José González releases new trilingual album, ‘Local Valley,’ after nearly seven-year hiatus

The Swedish-Argentinian singer-songwriter channeled creativity and fatherhood on the new album.

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Inspired by his relationship with his young daughter, José González channeled a sense of playfulness for his latest album. 

Based on the notion of being yourself and using available resources, González recorded the album only using the gear and instruments he already had at his disposal, as a challenge of sorts.

Despite this playfulness, many songs hold darker elements, such as ‘The Void’ and its themes of death and following emptiness.

On the new album, Local Valley, the folksinger-songwriter and guitarist was inspired by the pureness of spending time with his daughter. González and his partner, Hannele Fernström, welcomed their daughter in 2017.

Fernström is also an artist, who designed Local Valley's cover artwork.

Local Valley was released on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021. Gonzalez attributes becoming a father, an urge to adopt a more varied sense of artistry, and a desire to show more of his character as the motivations behind Local Valley’s songwriting.

González is a Swedish musician of Argentine descent who speaks Spanish, English, and Swedish, using each language in different scenarios. This is the singer’s first project where he sings in all three languages. 

When González started writing lyrics as a teen, he had influences rooted in North and Latin American music, but wrote in English. For him, writing in Spanish or Swedish originally did not carry the same meaning between the songwriter and listeners. 

When it comes to his daughter, he has been speaking to her in Spanish, so she may pick up the language more easily later in life.

“The playfulness of the album comes from hanging out with [my daughter] and being forced to be silly and think creatively. By becoming a father, I felt the urge to not be the enigmatic, melancholic singer-songwriter but to show more of my creative and playful sides,” González told The Irish Times.

Local Valley is somewhat predicated on González’ concept of “doomsday dudes,” people who are certain of the end times without considering humankind’s inability to truly predict nor avoid such a thing.

Despite its sometimes dark preoccupations with loss and death, Local Valley is easy listening. The record breezes by while González delivers soft and hushed vocals, as he does on lead single “El Invento.”

Subtitled with both its Spanish lyrics and their English translation, the music video for “El Invento” puts González’ themes into universally understood visuals, showcasing his relationship with family, and the stresses that exist outside of his love.

González is set on living life as he processes it. This is proven on songs like “Swing,” the impeccably relaxed, modest dance tune.

As if in response to these perceived “doomsday dudes,” González proves he will not be bothered — but will remain attentive to — the world around him. As González sings in “El Invento”: “Compleja en su calma y tempestad” (English: “Complex in its calmness and its storm”).

The folk singer framed the album’s story around the notion that humans are “smart primates” in search of societal growth and flourish, and the idea that this can be achieved without higher, supernatural interventions.

González has claimed that pro-science themes are spread throughout the record. A former academic of biochemistry, González once studied viruses.

The album’s pro-science stances have taken root in the face of anti-vax movements that have prolonged the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite his close attention to current world events, González appears to find solace in his own world.

Local Valley’s closer, “Honey Honey,” the album’s shortest song, is a fitting finale, portraying the enclosed love between González and his partner, cut off from the rest of the world.

Local Valley is available now.

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