30 January 2006

josé gonzález - "heartbeats" (from the veneer lp, available for purchase here.)
the knife - "heartbeats" (from the deep cuts lp, import available for purchase here.)

in brief : comparisons to nick drake are unavoidable when discussing the music of josé gonzález. here's another reason why.

josé gonzález is no stranger to these pages. not long ago, i was praising his cover of kylie minogue's "hand on your heart." w/ his cover of "heartbeats" by fellow swedes the knife, gonzález yet again displays uncanny instincts and interpretive ability.

the knife's "heartbeat" was originally issued in 2002, and then again in 2004. it is not a song that many will listen to--and, yes, be sure to listen--and think, "this would sound great on an acoustic guitar," particularly as it sounds so great w/ synthesizers. josé gonzález was such a person, though, and he gives it a different reading, acoustic lines throbbing like a pulse, josé singing to keep from crying. different, i said, not better (and that means you, you middlebrow bores).

that difference is best illustrated through the following exercise. go here and you can see the advertisement for the sony bravia that launched "heartbeats" into the uk itunes top 10, and when you watch it, you'll see that the ad is about color. perhaps it's just my inner synesthete--and the commercial is a synesthete's wet dream, no mistake about it--but the knife version is far more colorful, whereas josé's version draws its strength precisely from being sepia-toned. everything else about the ad--the hushed street, like sunday morning while church is in; the perfect weather; the pace and slow tracking; the cutesy stuff, like the kid and the frog--was surely written w/ josé's version in mind. for the knife, the day would have to be more humid and the balls would have to bounce like kids on pogo sticks.

what all of this demonstrates is that "heartbeats" is both durable and flexible enough to support multiple interpretations, both signs of a great song. josé's made out better w/ it so far, if one only goes by the links above, josé's album available domestically, the knife's as an import. like nick drake, whose ghostfingers never seem too far away from josé's fretboard, josé has gotten a big break from a commercial; unlike nick, josé is in a position to capitalize on his good fortune. let's hope he's able to come up w/ a composition of his own that can support a cover. in other words, let's hope that, moving forward, the compositions that bear his name are as strong, or at least half as much, as those bearing the names of others. at which point, he'll really be like nick.

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